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.

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