Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Pathfinder’s devilfish are a new take on an old name.  “Devilfish” was “basic” D&D’s term for the ixitxachitl; the Creature Crucible accessory PC3 The Sea People, by Jim Bambra, devoted lots of ink to their evil machinations.  In the Bestiary 2, the devilfish name jumps to evil seven-armed octopi instead.  As they are, they make good low-level threats during sea adventure scenarios (their unholy blood attack is a cute supernatural take on octopi’s natural ink-squirting abilities).  But they are begging for higher intelligence, class levels, and/or templates—why should aboleths and krakens have all the fun?

The bay of Oshiko is being held hostage by a greedy ogre mage who demands exorbitant tribute in gold from every vessel, no matter how small—even rowboats.  His hold is enforced by his devilfish minions, whose unholy blood is stirred by the evil oni’s commands.

The outrigger canoes of the Poonal rangers are said to be the fastest in the world.  They have to be, for the seafaring Poonal are locked in a never-ending chase from the flying devilfish of the South Seas, who can jet out of the water just long enough to burst their unholy blood clouds and maul the backs of the rowers they arc over.

The canal city of Tibrezia is a lively but horrid place.  A cosmopolitan city that traded morality for love of spectacle—even by the standards of the Olive Coast—Tibrezia opened its gates to anyone, even worshippers of the primordial ocean evil Dagon.  Now intelligent devilfish slurp through the arcades on their tentacles before slipping back into the canals, tieflings and dhampirs mingle with the doge’s courtiers, and one in twenty children is born a skum.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 88

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Back in 2000, the destrachan was easily one of the standout new monsters from 3.0 Monster Manual, with evocative artwork from Todd Lockwood that instantly showed off its potential.  Perhaps some of the bloom has fallen off the rose—it didn’t appear in Pathfinder till the Bestiary 2—but it’s still a striking and flexible monster.  A solitary destrachan can be a twist on the usual minotaur at the center of the maze.  Intelligent creatures, packs of them make a good underground menace for GMs tired of the usual duergar, drow, and derros.  And then there’s their saurian aspect: In your campaign, destrachans might be the next stage in dinosaur evolution (along with yrthaks, 3.5’s digesters, super-intelligent lizardfolk, and whatever other monsters you can dream up).

A mendicant minotaur cleric seeks to redeem members of his race from the worship of demon lords.  But the maze of Mal Shem is not occupied by minotaurs, as everyone supposes, but by a destrachan who prefers fresh meals to ministry.

Lost worlds do not have to stay lost…or stand still in time.  A sage following the migration of the mythical yrthak comes across a canyon-strewn landscape where dinosaurs still roam.  Over time, many of the deeper-dwelling species have evolved sonic abilities to help them navigate and find mates in their canyon homes—pterodactyls that use echolocation and compsognathuses that sing from bullfrog-like throat sacks.  The sage seeks adventurers to mount a full expedition, unaware that not all the dinosaurs he wishes to study are dumb beasts.

A party comes across a duergar settlement that seems largely deserted.  Those that remain are scavengers.  They speak of another, older settlement just below theirs, haunted by what they call the Howling Deaths.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 83

Monday, November 28, 2011


In the world’s oldest role-playing game, derros have been reliable, flexible underground threat: subterranean savages similar to morlocks, degenerate dwarves, and dwarf-human crossbreeds.  Pathfinder has reconceived them as degenerate former fey—a nice retouch that certainly works for the Golarion setting (especially since duergar, morlocks, and dark folk have the degenerate dwarf, human, and halfling ground covered).  Whatever race you decide derros are, you at least know what’s in their heads: madness.  Every encounter with derros should be a mixture of horror and pity—an encounter with creatures trapped by their own insane logic and evil urges.

A derro scientist wishes to conquer his fear of the sun by studying the fears of his victims.  While stealthy at first, he and his juju zombie assistants eventually abduct enough citizens that the human authorities begin to investigate.  Meanwhile, the emotions his experiments provoke have drawn the attention of a chaos beast and several bugbears.

The dwarf prince Lugar seeks to wed the human crown knight Fianna.  The dwarven clans are in uproar over the affair, but won’t say why, even to Lugar.  Fianna’s nation is bemused but wary, and her liege will be insulted if the marriage is stalled.  Only the dwarven elders know the truth behind their obstinacy: that every child of a dwarf-human marriage has grown into a mad derro.  Meanwhile, as the wedding plans and the political negotiations drag on, a series of strange fungal poisonings threatens to send the situation into further chaos.

A pech sage thinks he can cure the derro race of their madness through a combination of ancient fey magic and divine miracles.  Even as he tentatively begins to share his theories, powerful derro savants move to thwart him, convinced that they can use the same magic to permanently correct the insanity of the misguided pech and svirfneblin apostates. 

Pathfinder 70

James Jacobs delivers plenty more on derros in Classic Horrors Revisited.  Also, if you can find it, check out Roger Moore’s legacies of the Suel Imperium in Dragon Magazine 241.

A victim of my Florida vacation, this entry is finally up!  Hooray!

Friday, November 25, 2011


These fiends “personify death resulting from violent insanity,” according to the Bestiary 2.  That said, their main role, as their entry goes on to note, is serve as infantry for the daemonic armies.  If you do want to play up their ontological roots in combat, though, the key is in their special abilities—with fear and feeblemind effects driving their victims mentally mad; summoned swarm, insect plague, and creeping doom spell-like abilities adding physical torment to the mix; and then the derghodaemon itself rising out of a cloud of biting insects to strike.

The Horseman of Pestilence gloats as animals across the land turn rabid and deadly.  He shows this pleasure by allowing derghodaemons to manifest from the corpses of the largest dead animals.  Any travelers not set upon by rabid wolf packs and boar sounders must face a chittering infestation of derghodaemons instead.

An aged harpy is struck deaf.  Cut off from the calls of her sisters, she goes mad, summoning a derghodaemon to express her anguish.  Immune to the derghodaemon’s feeblemind aura, she feeds on the vacant-minded victims in its wake.

When Irsa, Goddess of Strife, threw a golden apple into the mortal world, the trail of arguments, betrayal, and jealousies it caused was not enough for her mad twin brother.  Pietros sent a cloud of wasps after the apple.  Growing fat on the divine juice of the golden fruit, they coalesce into a wasp-headed derghodaemon that kills every other being who touches the apple.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 66

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Denizen of Leng

If you’re a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, the denizens of Leng are your chance to explore strange doom-merchants not of this Earth.  If you’re unfamiliar with Lovecraft, the denizens of Leng are your chance to explore strange doom-merchants not of any Earth.

A call goes out that veiled foreign merchants are hiring mercenaries to slay spiders of unusual says.  Accepting the offer finds a party of adventurers chained to the oars of a black-sailed ship that moves effortlessly through the dimensions, hunting war parties of Leng spiders.

That the strange turbaned dress of the denizens is similar to that of many genies is no accident.  It is from the denizens of Leng the genies learned their culture and their wishcraft.  It is the influence of Leng that also turned the efreet evil.  Sooner or later the genie races’ tuition bills are going to come due…and it won’t be rubies the denizens take in payment.

To truly seasoned parties of adventurers, the options for exploration involve out—the planets and moons of the Void—or “up” (and “down,” “left,” and “right”)—along the cardinal axes of good, evil, law, and chaos.  The very existence of the denizens of Leng suggests something else—a lateral, oblique leap across the dimensions.  When a party needs to destroy a sword that aura radiates possibility rather than good or evil, booking passage via Leng to a somewhere/when if/else seems the only answer.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 82

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deinonychus & Elasmosaurus

The terrors in Jurassic Park may have been called velociraptors, but any real dino-lover will tell you they were deinonychuses.  Meanwhile, elasmosaurs are your go-to monsters for Lost World lakes and fantasy Loch Nesses.

A party of wood elves follows the tracks of a large flightless bird, collecting iridescent feathers along the way.  They are stunned when they discover a feathered deinonychus instead, which then takes a turn hunting them.

The presence of impossibly large water beasts in highland lochs, while rare, is still too common to be mere chance.  Most are water orms, aquatic relatives of the linnorms whose fey-touched magical talents aid them in travel and in escaping detection.  But some are elasmosaurs and plesiosaurs, true relics from another age.  Here the fey are more directly responsible: gangs of korreds, ancient in the ways of stone, tarn, and turf, who know how to call the reptiles across time through the thin places in the world with their droning pipes.

An undine druid guards the only passable ford in a stretch of jungle cataracts.  His elasmosaurus companion awes both the local lizardfolk, who call the reptile the Wise River Mother, and the neighboring human headhunters, who have named the water man and his beast taboo to hunt.

Pathfinder Bestiary 84

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Another refugee from the Known World/Mystara, the decapus is ripe for reĂ«xamination.  Though it’s been around since—what, B3 Palace of the Silver Princess?—it’s never moved much beyond its “tentacled tree monster” archetype.  The decapus’s shape recalls H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds; its preferred diet of gnomes points to an origin in the lands of the fey.  At the very least, decapuses should be canny opponents who use their environment to the utmost advantage.

A strange underground mushroom forest is peopled by taciturn svirfneblin.  Secretive even by the standards of their people, the gnomes hide a secret shame—they are all slaves, addicted to the cavern’s magical hallucinogenic fungi.  Their masters are devious decapuses, who farm the gnomes like livestock, even as they squabble among themselves, splitting the forest into numerous small fiefdoms.  They count on the svirfneblin and the cavern’s phantasm-creating mushrooms to shield them from intruders.

A saucer piloted by a decapus crashes into a forested ravine.  The decapus quickly goes native, learning to hunt local game, but it is always on the lookout for magic and gems to repair the engine in its vessel.

The Canopy Realm boasts trees with trunks as broad as city blocks; they are so tall many of the Realm’s inhabitants have never set foot on land.  In a world where the ground is a myth, decapuses are the Canopy Realm’s natural acrobats.  Many take on the role of evil monks, seeking physical perfection and mental enlightenment while demanding offerings of meat (or convenient limbs) from supplicants wishing to learn their secrets.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 77

Monday, November 21, 2011

Death Worm

Death worms have the feel of meta-GMing about them, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink suite of abilities (Acid breath! Electrical jolt! Poison bite!  Venomous skin!  Corrosive blood!) and related defenses that seem too blatantly the result of design rather than biology.  Still, they have a name liable to strike fear into PCs’ hearts (even if the necromancers grumble about anything labeled “death” that’s not undead) and they’re more manageable throw at a party than the Gargantuan 200 hp purple worm.

A prophecy says a future leader of the oppressed Urgs will be a golden-haired boy who will first die three deaths: by tooth, by lightning, and by poison.  When such a youth is found, a party of Urgs kidnaps the 14-year-old.  Their aim is to stake him in the desert to let the death worms hurry the prophecy along.

In the night, a gnoll tribe surrounds a party of adventurers.  At dawn, they offer the party a choice: defeat the mysterious force that has been harassing their hunting parties…or die.  They have not yet ascertained the cause of their pack mates’ disappearances, but they superstitiously assume (wrongly) that a pack of metal-armored humans will have better luck.

Death worms are solitary creatures—in the deserts and badlands.  But on the steppes, where prey is more plentiful, they sometimes gather in larger numbers.  The khan’s horse lords (Advanced Player’s Guide 147) must learn special tricks to fight these magical beasts.  And sorcerers of the fire bloodline, even while shunned by their tribes (the grasslands being so prone to wildfires), are nonetheless housed apart and tended by the khanate in the expectation that they will bring their flames to bear if death worms are sighted.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 76

Edit: Reader Landon writes:

The Death Worm is a cryptid, a modern legend from Mongolia called Olgoi Khorkhoi. The reason it has all sorts of crazy abilities in Pathfinder is because they're all from different forms of the legend. 


Friday, November 18, 2011

Dark Stalker

As subterranean peoples go, the dark folk are comparatively decent neighbors—they aren’t degenerate savages like the morlocks, hedonistic demon-worshippers like the drow, slavers in service to dour gods like the duergar, or kidnapping mad sadists like the derro.  Compared to them, a race of chaotic neutral thieves and poisoners seem almost benign.  But the very fact that dark stalkers can’t be easily categorized by their goals or habits makes one ask: So what are they hiding?

At least one school of shadowdancers is actually a cover for a shadow school of dark stalker assassins.

The Watch corners a black-cloaked man and a pair of diminutive companions stealing artifacts from the town museum.  In order to escape, the man slit his own lackeys’ throats, then vanished in the flash.  However, he dropped a scrap of paper that seems to reference something called the Umbral Orrery.  Wanted posters for the man are now on every street corner.

The head of the thieves’ guild becomes alarmed when a new poison called Black Smear floods the town—and not just because it threatens his monopoly.  His men track the suppliers three levels down below the city, where the closes and basements give way to caverns peopled by dark folk.  Dark stalkers captured one of his men, but he can’t go to the authorities because he himself is a fugitive due for hanging.

Pathfinder Bestiary 54

The closes of Edinburgh are awesome for sparking game ideas.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dark Slayer

Dark slayers are the black sheep of an already dark family.  When dark folk plots escalate from theft and corruption to murder, a dark slayer is almost certainly involved.  Parties making serious forays into dark folk territory will likely battle dark slayer sorcerers, whose soul harvest touch makes them as deadly up close as they are from afar.  Dark slayers’ obsession with magical items and resentment of their dark stalker leaders could drive encounters as well.

Among the criminal classes, Professor Rags is known as the most reliable fence in town—a crazed coot who won’t turn down any item, no matter how hot.  The so-called “professor” is a dark slayer obsessed with the magic items his client brings him.  His underground warehouse is filled with the sad remains of wondrous items ruined by his tinkering.

A dark folk city is rocked by internecine warfare when the dark slayers rise up against the dark stalkers.  Sellswords attempting to negotiate a trade agreement for some surface merchants soon get embroiled in the struggle.

A tribune of dark slayers has taken over their tribe, but the trio cannot agree on their overall goals.  One wants more profits from dark stalker trade with the drow, one is secretly in thrall to an aboleth savant, and the third is a daemon-worshipper whose revivals have his dark creeper followers frothing at the mouth beneath their layers of rags.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 75

Edit: I was so sick when this entry was supposed to come out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dark Naga

Thematically, nagas seem to be about possession, control, and of holding on overlong to history.  Sometimes this is positive—guardian nagas are benevolent lawful good protectors of sacred places, for instance—but often it is greedy, grasping, and covetous.  Dark nagas in particular, to quote the Bestiary, “covet luxury, wealth, and power over others.”  Like several other dark races (doppelgangers and rakshasas come to mind), dark nagas require both the trappings of power and the validation of those they see as lesser beings.  That they so often succeed in acquiring these things is a testament to their cunning and their magic.

The caustic, bitter head librarian of the Scriptorium is a dark naga.  He patronizes the nervous clerks and scribes who labor under him as “his moronic hands and feet.”  Secretly though, he envies them, and collects magic items and elemental servants of Air that allow him to better manipulate the books, pens, and inks he so loves.

Ashlyssar’s fiefdom is a tumble of elephant-carving-covered ruins in the Pashmedi Jungle.  She has managed to convince the local kobolds and she is a goddess and demands tribute payments from nearby catfolk settlements as well.  She prefers to avoid most other humanoids, but regards any obvious spellcasters as threats to be snuffed out.

The marchioness of San Markay—secretly a dark naga shielded by illusions and the ruses of loyal advisors—has survived two assassination attempts.  She hires sellswords to follow the trail back to its source.  If they succeed, she will learn the mastermind is her own sister, similarly masquerading as a merchant lord.

Pathfinder Bestiary 211

You can find a little more about nagas in the 3.5 Forgotten Realms sourcebook Serpent Kingdoms , but that’s not why you should buy it.  You should buy it because it’s awesome. 

I picked it up because I’m a sucker for new PC races.  But the book ended up being one of my absolute favorites of that era, offering just the right mix of Ed Greenwood setting and story, Eric L. Boyd divine insights and mythology, and Darrin Drader…whatever Darrin Drader did (the crunch maybe?).  I’ve returned to it again and again.

Also, Jonathan M. Richards wrote one of the last 2nd Edition Dragon Magazine “Ecology” articles about the dark naga as well as the first 3.0 one for yesterday’s darkmantle.

Edit: Took me long enough to get this up.  The original entry was: “Still sick.  My lymph nodes have advanced to Huge size and gained the half-fiend template.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Part octopus, part glider, part stalactite, the darkmantle is a common subterranean hazard.

Pilgrims are disappearing from the Grotto of the Saint.  The few victims who have escaped the strange assault cannot describe their attacker—custom dictates that supplicants enter blindfolded.  The few guards that have been sent to search report falling victim to darkness, as if the Saint was insulted by their unbound eyes.

A seaside cliff is riddled with caves known collectively as the Vaults of the Agathions.  The acoustics within are said to echo secrets whispered from the Upper Planes.  An aquatic species of darkmantle makes visiting the Vaults a dangerous prospect, however.

An apprentice wizard is sent to retrieve darkmantle organs for his mistress’s experiments with magical darkness.  She demands he bring a caged goblin to use as bait—an arrangement neither of the pair is comfortable with.

Pathfinder Bestiary 55

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dark Creeper

Like drow and duergar, dark folk are—possibly?—humans (and halflings?) who sought shelter underground and were irrevocably changed by the experience.

While attacking morlocks in the deeps, a party of adventurers unwittingly saves a gang of dark creepers, who swear their loyalty to the surface-dwellers in thanks.  For the next 48 hours, they serve as admirable guides, porters and foot soldiers—right up until the moment when a dark stalker appears and calls them to heel.  They obey immediately, and then immediately attack the party to boot.

The beggars of Hornmoth and the dark creepers in the sewers below have come to quiet understanding, sharing the rags and discards of the wealthy city. When beggars start to go missing, are the dark folk to blame, or are they victims as well?

Perched on the edge of the swampy moors of Perrin, Night Town is two cities in one.  By day, it is the lone large town in a backwater land, a place for farmers, trappers, tinkers, and swamp runners to eke out simple lives in a bleak landscape.  By night, it is the one place where dark creepers live aboveground, carrying on much the same as their daytime compatriots.  Being poor, the custom in Night Town is to share dwellings—humans and halflings work through the day, then return home just as their dark folk co-tenants are beginning their night.  Despite rarely even speaking the same language, the people of Night Town make their system work—a system of hand signs, scrawled pictograms, and dogged persistence bridges the gaps where language fails.  Unusually, there are no dark stalkers or slayers mingled with their smaller kin; in fact, Night Town’s dark creepers fear and avoid their cousins.

Pathfinder Bestiary 53

You can tell that the Paizo folk love dark folk (or dark ones, as they’ve also been known).  I’m pretty sure they appeared in 3.5’s Shackled City Adventure Path (along with a number of other Fiend Folio selects), I know they showed up in the Downer comic, and they certainly got catapulted into first-volume respectability with their inclusion in the Pathfinder Bestiary.

By the way, Night Town is inspired by a Dragon Magazine story, but I’ll have to do some digging to remind myself which one.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Flytrap-mawed parasites, cythnigots are a great vehicle for introducing qlippoths into a campaigns early—a foreshadowing of Abyssal horrors to come.  They’re also perfectly creepy on their own, as their ability to rupture out of and mutate mundane animals (and even beloved pets) can be used to good horrific effect.

A bloom of cythnigots infests the local sewer rats and begins to migrate through the city.  The target of the bloom’s ire seems to be Omun’s church, just south of Applecart Square.  At night the cythnigots use their warp wood and soften earth and stone abilities to slowly undermine and ruin the lawful god’s house of worship.  During the day they hide in the garden, hoping for a chance to strike at the high prelate, a noted lover of marigolds.

Joshu thinks he’s going mad.  He must be—for surely the flytrap that appeared from nowhere in his garret apartment can’t really be talking to him, whispering fantasies of murder and lust and destruction.  In reality, the impoverished playwright, once a foundling, is actually a tiefling whose Abyssal heritage has never before manifested.  The flytrap is a cythnigot runt unable to manifest its powers reliably.  When the qlippoth detected the demonic stain on Joshu, it began speaking to him in Abyssal in an attempt to drive him to the mayhem it is too weak to wreak.

The jolly pirate and sea sorcerer Shem the Brash hasn’t been quite the same since prying the bloodstone eyes from an idol on Cairn Reef.  After weeks of growing unease, his parrot familiar seeks help from a local cleric.  She has just finished her appeal when a fungal growth and two new claws burst through her back—signs of the dark powers that hold Shem under sway.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 221

Update: Check out Brandon Hodge’s Feast of Ravenmoor for a great cythnigot reveal/encounter.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Like centaurs, cyclopes come from Greek myths and legends.  Also like centaurs, they tend to be portrayed alternately as bloodthirsty savages or as oracular (albeit monocular) sages.  This dual nature makes them fun to throw at players—if they arm to face the monster, send them the prophet, and vice versa.  Then again, why choose?  A sage whose knowledge of ancient weaponry is surpassed only by his love of elf flesh would make a memorable contact...

The great cyclopean cities of the past have fallen, but the other giants still respect the cyclopes’ flashes of insight.  Among stone, fire, and frost giants, it is considered a mark of distinction to have a cyclops counselor.

A commission for Large greataxes and heavy crossbows, paid for in platinum, disquiets dwarf clan elders, but they fulfill the order.  They send a ranger to track the shipment, watching it change hands through several intermediaries before it reaches a gathering of cyclops tribes.  Alarmed, he goes for help, hoping to reach civilization with the news before the giants find him.

On the world of Nev, there are no true giants, only cyclopes and ettins.  The original giants, a race of titans, were the wardens and watchmen for Nev’s deities.  When they failed in their duties, the gods cursed them in anger and they were ripped asunder and warped in a fashion fitting their lack of vigilance: the ettins with twice the eyes but without the wits to use them, while the cyclopes were plagued with visions of the future but hampered by their flattened perspective of the here and now.  Now a cyclops seer claims he can reunite the races as true giants, but doing so will take blood sacrifices—of ettins, cyclopes, and many, many humans.

Pathfinder Bestiary 52

For such an iconic monster, it’s bizarre how badly the cyclops has been treated by the world’s oldest role-playing game.  (Seriously, stop and think about this for a minute.  Because it’s really, really weird.  Cyclopes were in the Odyssey, for Poseidon’s sake!)

Throughout the years the cyclops tended to be tucked away in the various Legends & Lore/Demigods & Demigods incarnations.  When it did appear in the core monster books, it usually wasn’t until a second or third Monster Manual/Monstrous Compendium down the line, and half the time it was upstaged by its much smaller cyclopskin cousin.

Meanwhile, compare this to the ettin, a term for giant that barely appears in folklore, applied to a monster who swans proudly through almost every edition of the game despite being nothing more than a glorified hill giant.

All in all, the cyclops’s spotty publication history is a great example of how an early decision/oversight can become embedded in the DNA of a game.  Thankfully, the cyclops appears front and center—finally—in the Pathfinder Bestiary.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crystal Dragon

In previous editions of the world’s oldest role-playing game, crystal dragons were the least of the gem dragons, the neutral (and psionic!) counterparts to chromatic and metallic dragons.  So far, Pathfinder lacks both gem dragons and psionics, so the crystal dragon label instead lives on in the primal dragon sept.  These are lawful, usually good-natured creatures who are also vain and quick to take offense.  This may seem like a paradox, but any adventurer who has spent time around a royal court full of dandies or the upper ranks of an imperial navy will quickly recognize the type.

A magic staff requires the scale of a crystal dragon as a focus for its prismatic spray.

A crystal dragon and an umbral dragon war for territory in the depths of the Lands Below.  The umbral dragon also employs morlock thralls to raid a nearby abandoned dwarf citadel for ancient magic and weapons.  A tribe of mongrelmen rangers and rogues, excellent scouts and skirmishers all, could turn the tide, but the crystal dragon must be convinced to look past their hideous appearances.

Being lawful neutral, not all crystal dragons scorn the charms of Hell; some older specimens even choose to live there instead of the Plane of Earth.  Their sonic breath affords them wide berth from the local devils, and their domains can thus be pockets of light (deep, cavernous pockets, to be sure) in the otherwise forbidding hellscape.  Devils excel at flattery and persuasion, though, which means characters seeking sanctuary with a crystal dragon had best get the beast’s sworn oath to protect them, lest they find themselves handed over directly to the hamatulas by the apologetic, preening wyrm.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 98–99

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Crysmals are the magpies of the Plane of Earth—that is, if magpies hatched what they stole and were shaped like scorpions to boot.

A crysmal has crept its way out of a sinkhole in a poor country parish.  Lost and ill from the wet climate, the crysmal has hidden from prying eyes, stealing only cheap quartz crystals from the mosaic in the local chapel.  When a jewel-bedecked sheriff rides into town, however, the crysmal strikes.  Knowing only that he has been robbed the sheriff’s investigation of the parish turns brutal.

An earth elementalist leads an exhibition to the Plane of Earth to study crysmals.  What he does not reveal is that he is also a budding artificer.  He studies crysmals in the hopes they may unlock the key to his true aim: the creation of self-replicating golems.

A djinni vizier’s jewels are missing; crysmals are the cause.  The djinni blames a recent guest, a shaitan he recently hosted out of duty, not desire.  But if the trail is followed, the shaitan is revealed to be innocent.  In fact, he is also victim—his mardana has been overrun by the creatures, which have consumed his treasure horde and bred like rabbits.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 61

Monday, November 7, 2011

Crypt Thing

A great name—possibly inspired by “The Thing in the Crypt,” the Conan story by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter?—for a tomb guardian with some tricks up its sleeve.  Unlike most undead, crypt things are quick, with Alertness, Dodge, Improved Initiative, and Lightning Reflexes to show for it.  And thanks to its quickened dimension door and teleporting burst abilities, the crypt thing is a master of space within its small, circumscribed world.

The Maul of Storms sits atop a cairn in the center of a great glacial cavern, accessible only by a simple stone bridge.  The crypt thing who guards the magic maul has a nasty habit of teleporting offenders onto the sheet of ice that surrounds the cairn—ice that shatters like glass in all but the coldest months, pitching the thing’s victims into the frigid black waters below.

Ephraim the Deathless is the default ruler of a small necropolis in the City Below.  The other intelligent undead who have flocked to his domain name him a lich, an assumption he has not discouraged.  In truth, Ephraim is a simple crypt thing, following his master’s dying instruction to watch over the necropolis and preserve the amulet he now wears around his neck.

Not all crypt things are found in crypts.  The Special Collections room in the library of Alinzeria is gated off and may only be entered by senior scholars.  Interlopers are met by a crypt thing, a former head librarian, who can not only teleport foes, but also burn them with a cold fire that boils blood but leaves the stacks’ librams untouched.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 60

Friday, November 4, 2011

Crocodile & Dire Crocodile

In our world, crocodiles can snap up a man so fast, they gave rise to the myths of bunyips.  And dire crocodiles may have snacked on dinosaurs.  In a fantasy world…let’s just say your PCs should never go swimming.  Ever.

Orc hang gliders circle around trapped adventurers like acid-grenade-throwing vultures, hooting madly.  The adventurers are saved when a dire crocodile bursts forth from the water and snaps down one of the orcs, sending the rest fleeing.  In the process, though, the sarcosuchus manages to take out the rickety pontoon bridge that was the party’s egress of the island.

The mummies of Djed-Ib have never been disturbed in their crypts.  This is likely because the mummies were once priests of the Crocodile Lord, whose reptilian charges still guard the floating temple city today.

Gnome dinosaur herders take their iridescent-scaled parasaurolophus flocks to market once a season.  All that lies between the Rillford Clan and riches is one dire crocodile-choked river.

Pathfinder Bestiary 51

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crawling Hand & Giant Crawling Hand

For the most part, crawling hands are just one of the hazards of breaking into a wizard’s tower.  But a solitary crawling hand (especially an Advanced specimen or one enchanted with a sleep or hold person effect) has the potential to be a great silent assassin in a locked room mystery.  And giant crawling hand invariably inspire questions…foremost among them being: Where did the necromancer get a hand that large?  And what happened to the rest of the body?

One of the so-called “white necromancers,” Carson Vederack explores his discipline’s potential to heal and empower without trucking with spells that owe their energy to the Negative Energy Plane or other dark forces.  Nevertheless, he is rarely without the service of at least one crawling hand.

The assassin lord known as the Mask has a crawling hand he calls Crandall.  The dexterous hand can juggle, perform sleight of hand, pick pockets, and even do shadow puppets—indeed, journeyman rogues are often tasked with putting on a show with Crandall to practice their showmanship and mark-finding.  But the Mask’s favorite use for Crandall is bestowing the hand as a gift to politicians who fail to do his bidding.

Setting himself up as a sorcerer-duke paying only nominal fealty to the Rose Scepter, Shartan Mourne rules from a throne made out of two giant crawling hands—one of which is often out on assignment pursuing marked quarry.  Little does he know that the previous owner of the hands—a rune giant betrayed and maimed by his rivals long ago—is very much alive and intends to pound the sorcerer-duke to a pulp with his iron-shod stumps (as well as any meddling adventurers who get in his way, or who harm Mourne or the hands before he can get to them).

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The movies love crawling hands.  (Wow, I think I’ve seen #4.)  And yeah, also there’s this.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Crag Linnorm

Linnorms are the primordial dragons, creatures out of myth, out of time, out of the fey realms, out of the jaws of angry Nature.  For GMs who remember when a dragon’s breath and claws were more feared than its spells, linnorms are a return to the classics.  For GMs who like to create a strong sense of place, linnorms signal the far North and the end of civilization.  And for GMs who like grand stories, linnorms’ death curses force PCs to reckon with the consequences of their actions, reminding them that sagas demand sacrifices.

Like something out of the tale of Sigeert, a talking magpie tells adventurers of a place of ambush from which they can strike a crag linnorm a mortal blow.  The magpie is actually the familiar of a green hag who wants the linnorm’s wealth and territory for her own.  She is counting on the dragon’s death curse to finish off the meddling heroes.

Two bronze dragons accompanying a party north halt at a certain defile, beyond which they say no dragon but the blizzard-loving whites may go.  North is the Lair of the Linnorms, and the bronzes must negotiate safe passage or be hunted down by the hungry, jealous crag linnorms.

A dying dryad queen’s curse splits her great oak tree with a bolt of lightning.  From it pour quicklings, gray renders, and crag linnorm destined to seek out those who felled the queen.

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