Friday, July 29, 2011

Badger & Dire Badger

On paper, badgers are not threats.  But no player would want to corner a badger (let alone a dire one), so that’s just what you should make his or her PCs do.

A witch’s patron has sent her a badger familiar.  She soon finds its ability to burrow handy in delivering touch spells.

For such small creatures, a band of pixies can be challenging foes.  But most pixies never need to nock their arrows.  Instead, they use dancing lights to introduce assailants to the nearest dire badger.

A trap spills caltrops across a party’s path, then drops them into a pit that is home to a clan of dire badgers.  Already feeling threatened, those badgers damaged by the rain of caltrops go into a blood rage.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 40

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Baboon & Monkey Swarm

One monkey is cute; more are a menace.  And if apes are nature with a human face, baboons are that face in war paint.

As part of an annual rite, a baboon sacred to the Waruwei tribe must cross the veldt to reach a holy spring.  This year, a demon lord has sent a wereleopard to ensure the baboon never arrives.

By day, the temple of the fertility goddess Punjarat is a bustling marketplace, meeting spot, and shrine.  But the teeming crowds vanish one hour before sunset, to be replaced at night by another crowd entirely—swarms of ravenous, red-eyed monkeys that pour from hollows up and down the temple’s face.

A band of refugees is fleeing the war chariots sent by the Padishah of Mekt.  They will be mown down if caught in the open, but if they can lure the charioteers into the Valley of the Monkeys, they will be safe.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 212

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The first demon in our alphabetical tour through Pathfinder, babaus are acidic slime-covered, longspear-wielding murderers—created, appropriately enough, from the souls of murderers.  They are often referred to as assassins, but make no mistake: babaus are not the bloodless contract killers of the Hells, but beasts who revel in personal, intimate murders of spite, revenge, envy, and sadistic impulse.

Members of a death cult smear themselves with lard, animal blood, and the gore of their victims, emulating their babau patron who leads them from his hiding place in the stockyards.

A frustrated assassins’ guild has exhausted its resources trying to take down a wily babau whose killing spree is ruining the collective’s carefully cultivated reputation.

After being disowned for murdering the scullery maid who bore his child, Reginold Craight swore to kill his family one by one for choosing honor over him.  He made it most of the way through two generations of Craight men before being caught and executed.  After tormenting his soul a half-century, the Abyss molded him into a babau.  The new creature has no memory of its former life, but still compulsively studies the Craight homestead in preparation for its debut on the mortal plane.

Pathfinder Bestiary 57

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


As outsiders resembling dwarves with hair and beards of fire, one would think the azer would have ties to dwarven deities and themes.  But across almost every sourcebook, one theme stands out: slavery.  Azer are almost never mentioned without slaves being mentioned, too: warring with the efreet and salamanders over them in 3.5, being subjugated by fire mephits(!) in Pathfinder’s The Great Beyond, or being enslaved by the efreet (sometimes with the azers’ own complicity) in the Bestiary 2.  Part of this is the severe nature of the Plane of Fire—anyone living near evil genies had best be prepared for some servitude.  But the azer race might also be an object lesson to PCs in the inevitable sacrifices made when fealty to lords and the law is not tempered by mercy and goodness.

An unclear line of succession could doom an azer slave revolt, as the factions will not unite until a single leader is crowned.

When mortal adventurers become stranded on the Plane of Fire, azer settlements are the most reliable safe harbors.  But they may not find a welcome.  Azer custom is as likely to label them slaves or even salvage as it is to offer them sanctuary, or treaties may obligate the azers to hand over any humans to efreet hands.

A cult of a water goddess, promulgated by steam mephit missionaries, rocks azer society, as much for the chaotic, freedom-loving (and free-loving) bent of her philosophy as for her opposed elemental nature. 

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 39

Monday, July 25, 2011


Axiomites are living equations given flesh.  Shaped like ordinary humanoids but glimmering with figures and symbols, they bring the Law personality that inevitables and formians lack.

The answer to thwarting the demigod of executioners lies in his creation.  An axiomite smith was witness to the act, but must be convinced to speak against a lawful evil deity.

An embattled team of axiomites summons a zelekhut to stave off a protean attack.  However, their unhealed wounds infect their corporeal equations with chaos, marring the attempt.  The faulty inevitable that arrives goes on a rampage, slaying all it encounters for even the most trivial offences.

An expansion to the axiomite city of Syllogines intrudes into the mortal plane.  The residents of Whitesun must contend with the new district in their midst or persuade the axiomites they lack the jurisdiction to settle.

The Great Beyond XX & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 36

Friday, July 22, 2011

Axe Beak

Axe beaks are exceptionally large birds—perhaps throwbacks to the megafauna era.  They can be domesticated, if they don’t carve up the PCs first.

Travelers who stumble upon a certain flock of nesting axe beaks must contend with both the nervous parents themselves and the gremlins who have taken up residence in the wooden mounds nooks and crannies.

Most axe beaks live on the open steppes, but some tropical versions dwell on secluded islands—a hazard for south sea whalers who go too far ashore looking for water.

Only riders bearing the personal seal of the Iron Khan may ride axe beaks in the land he claims.  Such riders are typically above local laws.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


As a rule, the neutral good agathions are vastly more likely to be PCs’ allies rather than their antagonists—unlike archons, they’re less likely to be provoked by lawless behavior; unlike azatas, they don’t feel compelled to pursue their own agendas out of sheer iconoclasm and willfulness.  But the right set of circumstances could still find them crossing swords with adventuring parties, avorals included.  After all, avorals are the scouts of the agathions, and scouts are known for landing in trouble...

The Red Crane Clan has a heavenly sponsor in a crane-winged avoral, whose friendship with the clan’s founder helped inspire the family totem.  Sadly, in the last decade Red Crane samurai’s have become corrupted by their love of indolence, luxury, and peasant tax revenues. Still, the avoral will feel honor-bound to defend than clan’s holdings, unless PCs can present concrete proof of the samurais’ wrongdoings.

A god has been murdered.  A squad of avorals finds a party of sellswords holding the blade.  The adventurers must defeat the avorals, escape, and solve the murder before the wrath of the Blessed Planes comes down upon them.

An avoral claims to be a messenger sent back from the future.  But in order to avert the coming calamity, he is determined to kill a sorceress—with lightning bolts and empowered magic missiles if he can, or with claws if he has to.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 16

I try never to diss Paizo’s art choices—usually there’s no need—but does that particular avoral in the Bestiary look like an angry turkey to you?

I chose the Red Crane name to differentiate it from the Legend of the Five Rings’ Crane Clan.  Credit where credit is due: WotC’s LotFR take on Oriental Adventures was fantastic, and I just (and by just I mean 4/16/12, since this post is months late) got AEG’s Rokugan Campaign Setting in the mail.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Introduced in the original Fiend Folio, given a great “The Ecology of…” in Dragon 132, and updated in Pathfinder Adventure Path 34’s “Blood for Blood,” aurumvoraxes are gold-eating eight-legged cats (or wolves—sources differ).  While the Bestiary 2 doesn’t give stats for aurumvorax companions, you can be sure the druids and rangers in your party will want a kit of their own.

Two rival clans of dwarves share the same mountain but have radically different attitudes toward the golden gorgers.  The Krazarks, an iron-smelting clan living deep underground, use them to ward off orcs and rust monsters.  The Gilderswergs live closer to the surface. Their veins have run dry, reducing them to panning the rivers, and they blame aurumvoraxes in part for their ill luck—both the wild varieties and their neighbors’.  A third clan typically keeps the peace, but the Ridgewalkers are gifted rangers and sorely tempted by the Gilderswergs’s new bounty on pelts.

A thief convinces a sultan to guard his treasure vault with an aurumvorax.  Now the sultan is considerably less wealthy, while the thief has made out quite handsomely—despite the inconvenience to having to sift through aurumvorax droppings for gems.  The sultan wants revenge; the thief wants safe passage with any group who will take him.

Travelers who cross the void to the worldshard of Koin find an ecology rife with many-legged beasts—behirs, aurumvoraxes, spindly antelopes, and strange, light-shifting panthers.  That Koin has enough gold to support aurumvoraxes might make it a target for miners—but the vemeraks who people the worldshard do not seek company.

Pathfinder Adventure Path 34 18–19 & Bestiary 2 35

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Aurochs & Bison

Huge relatives of cattle, aurochs existed well into the late Middle Ages on our world.  And bison were essential to the Native Americans.  Being trampled by a stampeding herd could be lethal to even the most well-armored adventures.  But it’s who hunts and tends the herds that lead to adventures.

Kobolds have hunted bison in the Vulture Plains using snares and traps for as long as anyone can remember.  But the recent domestication of deinonychuses has given them new mobility and efficiency.  Now the bison are nearing extinction.  Without aid, human and dwarven miners in the area will starve.

Aurochs have been extinct in Yunland since the Leucrotta Age.  But since midwinter, strange spectral herds of them have been spotted moving in and out of the mists.  Some hunters have tried to capture them.  One brought back a calf; seven more returned as frost-rimed zombies.

The skin-slicing, blood-drinking razorgrass of the Blood Plains is harmless to herd animals, lethal to humanoids.  Elves and gnomes still hunt aurochs and bison, though, on magical wind skiffs and hang gliders.

Pathfinder Bestiary 174

Monday, July 18, 2011


3.5 introduced obyriths, the primordial demons replaced by the tanar’ri.  Their Pathfinder analogs are the qlippoth, similarly inhuman beasts with a hatred for mortal life, demons, and daemons alike.  The augnagar may be the least intelligent qlippoth (and a cannibal to boot), but it is a savage fighter nonetheless.

Something appalling is nesting under the streets of Shroudport.  A beggar boy was nearly driven mad by the sight of it, but the Ragpicker King refuses to let him go to the authorities, for fear of revealing the beggars’ hideout.

A nabasu and an augnagar are squabbling over a patch of the Abyss.  The nabasu is too smart to be caught be the qlippoth, but lacks the strength or influence to drive it away.

A gluttonous augnagar is close to its apotheosis into an even deadlier thulgant.  A ghaele apothecary has created an ambrosial opal that can stop the transformation, provided he can convince someone to feed the beast the enchanted pill.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 219

Friday, July 15, 2011

Attic Whisperer

Not every adventure has to be grand in scope.  Some mysteries might only concern a single house and the secrets of children. 

Jezephael Morne has been a fixture at the Inn of the Stag for years.  But since a new owner took over, her bardic performances have faltered. Now she is afraid to take the stage, afraid for her livelihood, and afraid the new owners have brought a curse with them.  Actually, what they have brought is their young daughter, who has roused the Inn’s dormant attic whisperer.

The children on Cock’s Comb Avenue have begun disappearing one by one, never to be seen again.  The pets have been disappearing, too, but these have been found—and found badly burned.  There are two culprits acting in concert: an attic whisperer who puts its playmates to sleep untl they starve, and a young boy, actually an ifrit, whose otherworldly nature has helped it resist the attic whisperer’s lures but who has begun setting fires to banish the air of oppression he feels all around.

People can be as lonely, mad, and evil as any undead.  The widow Maude and an attic whisperer go from town to town, living in a gruesome parody of a parent-child relationship—the attic whisperer lures children to her rented house, and she bakes them into pies, after which the undead creature goes out hunting for new playmates again.

Pathfinder Adventure Path 1 XX & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 34

I don’t know how well attic whisperers play from the GM’s perspective.  But conceptually, I love them.  To my mind, the best undead have an existence supported by some motive—a history, a wrong, a loss—and qualities and vulnerabilities that hint at the folk tales and remedies of old.   The inn wight from the Scarred Lands’ Creature Catalog was a perfect example of this, right down to being thwarted by a circle of salt around a bed; the attic whisperer is another.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Another refugee from the Known World/Mystara (the aranea being the first so far), athaches are hideous three-armed giants.  Lacking much of a history, either mythologically or in role-playing, athaches give GMs an excuse to explore and invent.  Are they a cursed by the gods?  Primordial throwbacks like ettins and firbolgs?  Degenerate hill giant mutations that bred true?  These questions may not interest the party.  But it’s always nice to have a medium-sized mystery for your players to explore—nothing earth-shattering, but true to your world and worth uncovering for parties who like knowledge as much as treasure.

Village folk always said the miller’s family was so miserly they needed three hands to hold all their gold.  After a particularly long, curse-haunted winter, perhaps the folk were right.  Travelers reaching the mill find it a shattered hulk inhabited by athaches.

A sage is convinced he can create a solution to eradicate green slime.  The key ingredient is attach poison, milked from the source. Fortunately, a pair have taken to manning the local ford, harassing travelers for gold and pigs.

A stone giant seer has always lived in the heart of Elmsford, offering engineering advice to his smaller neighbors.  Word (sent by xorn) of his grandson’s naming day puts him in mind to travel.  He needs an escort, though, as his path home takes him through hills warded by athaches, animate myths, and yeth hounds.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 33

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Astral Deva

Messengers of the gods, astral devas are likely to be encountered while on their heavenly errands—or even when they arrive to witness to the PCs themselves.  Language and truth personified, they overcome obstacles on their routes with words if they can, and with blade barriers and +2 disrupting warhammers if they cannot.

How responsible is a messenger for the message he carries?  Since Malim accepted a post as envoy from the god of merchants to the god of shipwrecks and sailors, he has grown weak, tired, and irritable. Most recently, his wings have started to smoke.  He does not know the contents of the epistles, and would not stoop to intercepting them—scared as he is, to do so would render him Fallen or even unravel the very fabric of his being.  But that does not mean he cannot hire agents to find out what his messages portend through other means.

Prophecies regarding a party of adventurers are written on an astral deva’s scrolls.  He is of no mind to let anyone read them, however.

Some astral devas serve no deities.  Instead they serve words themselves, becoming protectors and manipulators of some private Ursprache.  Many reveal talents similar to mortal wordcasters, combining strange holy syllables in effortless, reality-transforming combinations.

Pathfinder Bestiary 10

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


In 3.5, daemons (a.k.a. yugoloths) were mercenary fiends with no regard for Law or Chaos—ruthless self-interested personified.  In Pathfinder, their only interest is in obliteration—of mortals, of life, of existence.  Astradaemons are among the very worst specimens, for their targets are not living creatures but the great migration of souls itself.

A platoon of shield archons and leonals has formed to defend the River of Souls from astradaemon raiding parties.  Exasperated by the too-straightforward nature of his companions, a vulpinal seeks more thoughtful, even devious adventurers as scouts and commandos.

A recalcitrant leukodaemon is slated to be molded into an astradaemon.  Determined to avoid this blind, eel-faced fate, the plague-spreading wretch has been plane-hopping desperately through the moral realms, a pack of astradaemons hot on his heels.

The night markets and soul auctions of the night hags are legendary throughout the universe.  But when an astradaemon sets up a stall and begins trading in Grand Dame Viperroot’s market, speculation flies.  Of course the astradaemon will show its true colors—but when?  What is its endgame?  And how much profit can everyone else make in the meantime?

The Great Beyond 54–55 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 63

Monday, July 11, 2011

Assasin Vine

Assassin vines may be the quintessential monstrous Plants—no siren scents, no spores, no splintered maws…just innocuous, efficient murder.

Just before the harvest festival, assassin vines strangle several victims.  Accusations fly as the townsfolk blame each other, witches, hags, evil fey, and every local elf and gnome down to the last pointed ear.  Even Mother Wheat (an honorific for the druid asked to lead the festival) is not immune.  The real culprit is someone no one expects—a four-time champion dwarven brewer who nevertheless fears all competition, and whose faculty with the vines outstrips even his talent with barley and hops.

The more frequently an assassin vine feeds, the sweeter the berries—so the saying goes.  Likewise the sweeter the wine, as has been proved by one vineyard-owning aasimar aristocrat.  (A resilient dash of lillend blood is responsible for her gourmet palate; four generations of mean, grasping barons and baronesses produced her black heart.)  The aasimar is also a wizard, but a conjurer, not some enticing enchantress or crafty illusionist.  Her victims therefore face progressively prolonged, horror-filled deaths, as webs, obscuring mists and summoned monsters herd them toward the trellises.

An unassuming scarecrow hides an assassin vine.  Grown fat and woody on crows and farmhands, it can no longer leave its perch, but still manages to stretch just far enough into the road to snatch unwary meals.

Pathfinder Bestiary 22

Friday, July 8, 2011


One part animate boulder.  Two parts murderous fungus.  Store in a cool, wet place.

The city of Perrenwald is a banking center.  Much of the goods passed back and forth comes in the form of writs or deeds, and the stone constructs employed by the counting houses as couriers make for difficult marks.  Instead of targeting chests of coins, the Gray Blade thieves’ guild targets their owners, specializing in abduction, extortion, and information gathering.  If a deal goes bad, the Gray Blade disposes its victims in chambers beneath the guild house, where ascomoid spores make short work of the body, eliminating any raise or speak with dead attempts.  Guild apprentices do the disposing, and full-grown ascomoids sometimes make short work of the slow and unlucky.

A dark creeper hideout has been overrun with ascomoids.  They seek a druid to clear the fungi out.  Asking for assistance is a difficult concept for the dark fault, which they mistake as simply being a synonym for “abduct.”

A gnomish bard seeks the tales of his svirfneblin cousins.  His luck runs out when a rockfall turns out to have been caused by tumbling ascomoids.

Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 6

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Arsinoitherium & Glyptodon

Megafauna don’t enjoy the name recognition that even the more obscure dinosaurs do.  But they’re ideal as exotic herd animals, dire beasts, Norse companions, arctic and jungle wildernesses, Lost Worlds, and any situation where a dinosaur would just seem silly—or where a GM’s inner five-year-old protests mixing people and the Mesozoic.

To become an adult in the Two Horns clan, young men must travel with an arsinoitherium pack for a season, without being gored or trampled.

Hobgoblins respect a good defense as much as a good offense.  In the arena of Baked Sands, the wagers are flying fast and furious over the upcoming bout between an ankylosaurus and a glyptodon.

The daimyo of the Osua District’s pride and joy is a glyptodon whose plates are painted with scenes of cranes and bridges, and he walks it daily on a silk lead.  The ninja clan recently paid to assassinate him is aware of this fact as well.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 186

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Army Ant Swarm & Giant Ant

Ants are hard to get rid of.  In giant and swarm forms, even more so.

A hive of giant ants has taken over the abandoned mine just outside of town.  The strange glowing orbs they have been seen tending are not eggs, however.

Even the demon apes of the Blood Ape Jungle fear army ant legions on the march, prudently fleeing from their approach.  This can lead them into odd alliances—or murderous conflict—with the stilt house-dwelling human tribes who live nearby.

In folklore, brownies are helpful house spirits, doing chores around the steadings of benevolent farmers.  The barbed lance-bearing, giant ant-riding brownies of the Thistleback clan are of a decidedly more martial character.

Pathfinder Bestiary 16

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The weakest of the inevitables so far described, arbiters are Tiny factotums for the forces of Law.

A Lawful holy site has called a manticore to be its guardian, augmenting it with permanent fox’s cunning and owl’s wisdom effects.  The formerly rapacious (and, it must be said, happily so) Razormane is now tormented by his newly boosted consciousness…and by his would-be consciences: two bickering arbiters manifested to aid and educate him.

Appalled at watching his baron descend into abject (but strictly legal) cruelty, a Lawful Neutral court wizard finally throws in with the budding rebellion.  His arbiter familiar, Nul-Quorum-One, is doing everything it can to cajole its master into returning to their rightful liege lord’s service—including hiring adventurers to bring him back by force.

An extraordinarily large flock of arbiters has overrun the town of Brighton, inscribing it with strange symbols and commanding obedience.  Despite their truespeech ability, they insist on communicating primarily in Celestial, and have even employed their electric bursts on a councilman whose questioning of them turned violent.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 162

Monday, July 4, 2011


Introduced in—what?  X1: The Isle of DreadAC9: Creature Catalog?  Who knows?  What matters is their reinvigoration at the hands of Bruce Heard’s “Voyage of the Princess Ark” series—in particular the installment from Dragon 183, which introduced the aranea wizard nation of Herath.  Before merely brainy, weakly spell-casting spiders, in that article aranea became shapeshifters and a worthy NPC (or even PC) race—and should still be considered so (even if the art in the Bestiary 2 does them no justice).  Also, as Neutral creatures of scholarly bent (and more likely to ransom than kill), they can be a good reminder to PCs that ugly or deceptive does not equal enemy…unless it does.

For years, a colony of aranea has masqueraded as a clan of elves.  Eventually, their arachnophilic ways arouse the suspicion of their true elven neighbors, who mistake them for drow.  As arrows and spears are sharpened, one scholar among the elves preaches peace—but as a nearsighted, stammering half-breed, he makes a poor interlocutor.

In the gondolas of the canal city of Pencia, merchant lord Carlo Correr is called “the Spider in the Tower,” as from his perch in his cupola he seems to know everything that transpires in the city.  The name is all too apt—Correr is an aranea who facility with charms and hunger for information are unmatched.

The halfling nation of Lucerne and the aranea principality of Brynn keep an uneasy peace.  Adept at spotting aranea in humanoid form—and even more adept with their slings—Lucerne’s rangers have exacted a promise that no aranea from Brynn will ever take halfling form again, on pain of death.  Such a pledge was necessary after Brynn’s last attempt at usurpation and occupation.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 30

Friday, July 1, 2011

Annis Hag

Most hags are schemers and plot-weavers.  Annis hags are not.  They spread terror through abject cruelty, gleeful appetites, and sheer physical power.

A hag known only as the Slicer lives in the moors of Leech Hollow.  Once a season, she skins a man and leaves him in the village green of one of the nearby hamlets.  She is known for wearing the skin of a manticore she killed with her bare hands, and she wears his iron teeth to complement her own in a set of braces that give her a second bite attack.

A hag coven needs a new maiden.  The annis hag crone, Tessa Flint-Tooth, cannot abide the thought of another annis hag joining her company.  Nor does she want Jenniver, the green hag mother, to gain a fellow green hag for an ally.  They settle on a human, the future duchess of Kenmore, who secretly dabbles in witchcraft—and who is still a month away from her wedding day.

Though hags venerate both dark goddesses and witch patrons, they also have a progenitor mother: the original annis hag, Black Annis.  Though not divine—at least, she does not answer prayers or grant spells—she is presumed alive and hale, still clad in the skins of all the children she has devoured over the years.  She likely lives on either the Ethereal Plane or some demiplane (she almost certainly knows create greater demiplane (Ultimate Magic 213–214)).  In terms of power, she is at least as strong as the famed Baba Yaga and has demonstrated both the aforementioned sorcerous abilities as well as witch powers from the Strength (Advanced Player’s Guide 70) and Vengeance (Ultimate Magic 83) themes.  Approach with caution.

Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 11 & Bestiary 3 16

My middle school had a fair number of the Time Life Books’ Enchanted World series.  I can’t recall which title had the description and image of Black Annis, but they were chilling.

In Classic Horrors Revisited, Rob McCreary has an excellent chapter on hags; of particular interest is how annis hags’ covens and powers differ from their sisters.  He also deserves special props for nailing exactly why hags exist in the first place: men and women’s mutual fear of women outside the social order—by age, by accident, and by choice in particular.