Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Frost Drake

White dragons may be the weakest true dragons, but their blue-scaled cousins are among the stronger drakes.  This is compounded by their snow vision and icewalking abilities.  In many cold-themed adventures, the environment is as much of a hazard to PCs as the monsters are, and frost drakes are at their best just when PCs are most vulnerable.

Frost drakes are the top predators in the Crystal Mountains.  They snack indiscriminately on roe deer, snow sprites, and ice mephits, but are eager for the flesh of humanoids when they can get it.

A subspecies of frost drake native to the great frozen lake of Aldinfrost have adapted to the environment there, growing curved claws they use to skate over the glassy lake surface.  Using their wings as sails, they can attack prey as fast on land as they can while flying, using their Flyby Attack and speed surges to make wickedly fast turns.

A woman killed by a mated pair of frost drakes rises as a yuki-onna.  Her inability to take revenge upon them—they are immune to her chilling touch—only makes her more determined to hurt every other creature that enters her domain.  The drakes themselves benefit, as the supernatural snowstorm that surrounds the yuki-onna renders their prey more vulnerable.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 108

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


There is pretty much no going around it: The froghemoth is not of this world, or at least not of any ecosystem most characters would be familiar with.  It’s strongly suggested in most published appearances that they are actually alien creatures.  They might also be aspects of divine rage, primeval menaces from out of time, or the result of truly reality-bending experiments.  Accordingly, there is no casual or random deployment of a froghemoth in an adventure arc.  It should always be the penultimate or final encounter—and a springboard into the next arc…namely, “Where did that thing come from, and/or who sent it?”

The metal sky canister the boggards have unearthed holds the jelly cocoon sack of some Huge froglike creature.  The boggards believe it is a mobogo sent by their demon god to lead them.  The swamp’s vooniths could tell them otherwise, but they fled the area at the first sight of the canister—almost as if they knew what it contained…

This is true: The world is hollow.  This is also true: It is larger inside than out.  No divination spell will reveal these things, nor any divine emissary.  Only by witnessing this land with your own eyes may you learn of it.  Dotting this inner realm are strange vibrating spires—the source of the magical interference and a potent conduit for bardic magic.  Many of the spires are guarded by froghemoths. Others stand unattended, their croaking former servants wandering half-mad as they prey on dinosaurs and civilizations alike.

A tattered scroll declares that the First Apocalypse will be heralded by two signs: “The Servants of the Horseman of Pestilence do thus ride out, and o’er the Land a Plague of Frogs.”  Now, as leukodaemons manifest in droves, a party of adventurers discovers the second half of the prophecy was rather poorly translated…

Pathfinder Bestiary 136

port·man·teau  /pôrtˈmantō/  n.  1. A large trunk or suitcase opening into two equal parts.  2. The thing from the Barrier Peaks that just ate your character.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fossil Golem

It’s a golem with two tyrannosaurus skulls for hands.  That can petrify you.  (Nay—that can fossilize you!)  I’m going to assume that’s really all you need to know.

The wizards of the Brown Cowl hide in plain sight as paleontologists for Ambrose University.  Since everyone takes it for granted that they are bone-stealing necromancers, the cabal finds it easy to hide the fact that they are actually relic-stealing transmuters.  Their efforts have actually yielded the museum a remarkable collection of dinosaur skeletons that have become quite a tourist draw.  The as-yet-to-be-cataloged pile of leftover bones in the Special Collections Wing is actually a fossil golem that guards the Brown Cowl’s laboratories and smuggling operation.

Half the trouble with creating a fossil golem is finding the right bones.  But in their subterranean travels the foul urdefhans cross countless strata pocked with fossils.  The resulting golems make good guards, and urdefhans find their petrification power a particularly pleasing and slow way to spread death.

In the cactus-filled badlands, it’s hard to tell who competes more fiercely—the ranchers, rangers, and gunslingers who roam the mesas, or the dueling miners, spellslingers (Ultimate Combat 74–75), and deep earth bloodline sorcerers (Advanced Player’s Guide 137) who battle over riches under the earth.  Outgunned (literally) by the miners and wizards, the sorcerers even the odds with fearsome fossil golems and earthshaking spells.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 136

I’m between campaigns at the moment (and here I’ll pause to wish my GM’s new store, Gorilla King Comics, lots of luck so we can start playing again).  So it’s hard for me to evaluate the fossil golem, because I think the experience largely depends on which side of the gaming table you’re on.  I’m already on record as being against golem bloat, and speaking purely as a reader, I’m not going to lie—the fossil golem makes me go, “Um…seriously?”  But if I was facing one across the table, and my GM said, “Those two T. rex skulls you see?  Those are its hands…” I probably would have been pretty impressed.

Speaking of Wild West fossil hunting, my grad school roommate used to live in Edward Drinker Cope’s house in Philly.  How awesome is that?!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Half nymph.  Half fey.  Forlarrens are the tragic example of what happens when unearthly beauty and unearthly evil meet—and mate.  Their lithe hairless forms manage to somehow be entrancing and revolting at the same time, and they serve as a murderous bridge between worlds that characters are all too likely to need to visit.

Rejected by both fey and fiends, Darach Nymphson now serves them both—and anyone else—as a moneychanger in the Hag Market the lurks between the worlds.  He is renowned for his ability to fairly convert currencies of obscure value—smuggler souls for treant boughs, for instance.  Behind his back, people call him “Goatfoot.”  He does not seem to be aware that this is the case, but those who do inevitably find he charges higher rates for his services.  Anyone saying it to his face would find out that he also trades in cold iron and flame spheres.

The Gorse Queen has a forlarren in her court, the result of a dalliance between her maid and a barbed devil (the maid did not survive the birth).  She cannot kill him for fear of offending his father.  Instead, she has channeled his murderous rages by allowing him to train as an assassin, specializing in the killing of human spellcasters.

A forlarren who suffers exceptional bouts of remorse has found an antidote: the confessional booth.  Now when he murders, he then flees to seek penance for his evil deeds, only to lash out again.  Bound by a vow of silence, the horrified priest is desperate to end the killing spree, and seeks to alert authorities within the confines of his sacred oath.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 125

We last saw the Gorse Queen in the Brownie entry.  Wow, that was a long time ago…

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Forest Drake

Green. Draconic.  Only CR 4. Forest drakes are the affordable woodland menace (and plenty speedy, too).

Forest drakes hate fey.  A quickling uses this to his advantage, daring forest drakes to chase him only to lure them into attacking the dwellings of brownies and atomies instead.  He relies of his speed and invisibility to stay ahead of their speed surges.

A new ferry starts up to save travelers a seven-mile hike to more fordable waters.  Business is booming till a forest drake discovers the ferry.  Able to breathe water, he treats the boat like a reliable buffet.

The annual forest drake hunt is a right of passage for young elves.  It is also a traditional way for elven princes to remove rivals to the throne.  This year the dueling princes, a trio of half-brothers, are especially charismatic and fiery.  If one falls, civil war will almost certainly erupt among the followers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2107

Another thought for 3.0/3.5 fans: Given the forest drakes’ loathing of elves, the threat of them might be part of the impetus behind the creation of the Monster Manual II’s felldrakes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Forest Dragon

Our first imperial dragon, courtesy of the Bestiary 3!  There are lots of ways to handle the imperial dragons, depending on your campaign.  Maybe they’re just yet another branch of the dragon family, albeit with some nifty/nasty special abilities and breath effects.  Maybe, as in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series (and as is implied in Paizo’s various Golarion products), they are actively engaged in shaping human societies, unlike the more secretive or standoffish Western dragons.  Or maybe, given their polar alignments, they are signs, signifiers, and enforcers of greater cosmic principles—nearly semi-divine beings.

Meanwhile (egad, yet another two-paragraph intro!), forest dragons can be just a regional result of the dragon flowchart: “Let’s see…evil, setting is vaguely Asian, adventure takes place in forest…forest dragon.”  Or you can throw them pell-mell into your typical Pathfinder campaign.  How would lawful greens react to the stronger chaotic competition?  How would elves adapt to defending against two kinds of evil wyrms?  How would other earth powers like a blue dragon or shaitan respond to the forest dragons’ close connection to its element?

A forest dragon and a coven of green hags play a game of chess using a whole forest as a board. Agreed upon landmarks and vegetation from the squares, other woodland denizens are their game pieces, and adventurers their pawns.  Naturally, both sides also cheat whenever possible.

To Western adventurers, a grove of petrified statues of pain-wracked corpses seems to clearly be the work of a medusa.  But hunting reptilians is likely to only anger the local nagaji (Dragon Empires Gazetteer 10).  If the victims are restored to both flesh and life, they can attest that the real culprit was an ancient forest dragon who took their promised tribute offerings and then slew them anyway.

As long as anyone can remember, a mysterious greater earth elemental has appeared once a month to clear stones away from an avalanche site at the base of a wooded mountain.  Intrigued and hoping for treasure, the local hidalgo has encouraged villagers and nearby monks to aid the elemental’s work.  If they do, they will find no good deed goes unpunished—the avalanche conceals a buried forest dragon.  Traditionally called by the dragon’s breath, the elemental now responds to the hibernating dragon’s instinctive mental cries for aid even across planar boundaries.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 94–95

I’m getting so behind on my reading.  I just got Jade Regent: Tide of Honor in the mail, only to turn around and then get JR: The Empty Throne and Pirates of the Inner Sea two weeks later…

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Foo Creature, Dog & Lion

Heavenly spirits sent to the mortal world from the same realm as the agathions, foo creatures make excellent companions to good-hearted adventurers.  Of course, even good-hearted adventurers have a bad habit of breaking into temples and palaces that foo creatures are sworn to protect.

Foo dogs are an import to the Dreaming Desert.  But they have grown to love the harsh land and its people, especially those on walkabout, and will not see either harmed.  Some of them can even freeze into dog-shaped petroglyphs rather than statues, in honor of the aborigines’ art.

The Emperor of Brass has been usurped and his archrival sits on his throne.  Yet the foo lions that guard the palace have not rejected the usurper, as they have other claimants in the past.  Only the court oracle is brave enough to ask: Are they endorsing the upstart’s claim, or are they being magically compelled?

In the lowlands of the southern continent, a series of imperial foo leopards have guarded the noble kingdom of Etios for generations.  Their influence, paired with the Etiosian’s own fierce intellects, have protected Etios from its baleful neighbors, especially the Riddling Kingdom to the west.  The sphinxes of that land hunger for slaves and worship, but are reluctant to match wits against what they see as fellow divine feline rivals.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 120–121

Monday, February 20, 2012

Flying Squirrel, Fox & Goat

These familiars are more exotic than the usual selections—perfect for witches, sorcerers with fey or verdant (Advanced Player’s Guide 141) bloodlines, and iconoclasts in general.

Lovers of wild places, plants, and animals, brown wizards often seem to have more in common with druids than with their fellow mages.  Bertrem Carr’s flying squirrel Pirrip was a souvenir of Bertrem’s early days in the woods, and now is almost as well known as the wizard himself.  Within a week’s ride of Bertrem’s home, young wizards with a flying squirrel familiar are assumed to be his apprentices.

The witch Poison Night keeps a mangy fox familiar.  Not only has borrowing the beast’s agility (expressed as her Reflex save bonus) saved her many times, but she takes pride in the number of diseases she has cultivated in the fox’s bloodstream—all of which can be released when her pet bites.

Apprenticed to a court magus, Corvus Jaleel was mortified when he called a goat as his familiar.  His peers and the young ladies at court made him a laughingstock, and his master’s distaste for the bovid was equally apparent.  Then war broke out in the mountains and he was sent to the front to train as a war wizard.  Now Corvus has been decorated many times over and his luck in familiars seems prescient.  Adimarchus the goat has saved his master’s life countless times by picking the surest trails, finding food after days of no rations, and once headbutting an orc off a cliff.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 112–113

Friday, February 17, 2012


Famously the only lawful good monsters in the original Fiend Folio, flumphs are The Star Wars Holiday Special of monsters—not so bad they’re good, but so bad they end up being even worse than you’d heard they were.  These days they mostly show up in April Fool’s releases and as a running gag in The Order of the Stick.  That said, Adam Daigle did a yeoman’s job of trying to bring flumphs up to date in Misfit Monsters Redeemed, setting flumphs in opposition to the Lovecraftian horrors that live in the blackness of space.  (Then again, he may just have inspired just more grounds for mockery, given the note about interpretive dances in the MMR introduction.)

But.  But!  (And you know I’m serious, because I’m using a second paragraph for my intro, which I never do.)  We leave in the weird fantasy era—call it the New Crobuzonian Period—where China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer are discussed in the same breath as Tolkien.  Rather than trying to make flumphs safe for your fantasy setting, your best bet is to use flumphs to help warp and reënvision your fantasy setting.  Make them one of the organizing elements of your campaign, like the draconians of Krynn or Eberron’s warforged.  Because nothing tells players they’re not on Middle-earth anymore like a tentacled saucer that injects acid…especially when it’s the only thing on their side.

They call it the City, the World-Tower, the Sky Seeker—a metropolis so large most inhabitants never leave it.  They say that steel-winged archons circle the spires of Civus, keeping it safe and reflecting on its marvel.  But even if it’s true—and most residents of Civus’s Undercity will tell you it’s not—the archons’ gazes never reach the Undercity, whose only sky is vaulted ceiling after vaulting ceiling.  Here humans and dwarven shopkeepers, miners, and smelters mix with ratfolk, clockwork constructs, oread separatists, fey halflings, goblin and gremlin infestations, and myceloid crime families.  The closest thing to the law is the flumphs, hovering just overhead and directing a ragtag group of rangers and inquisitors to keep the peace.

They make an odd pair, the peri Dyanne and her flumph sidekick Hess, hunting down minor divs and starborn aberrations wherever they can find them.  They’d make an even odder pair if Dyanne would let the flumph wizard train in firearms like he keeps asking to.

A flumph needs help shutting down the operation of an unscrupulous mercane, who is offloading moonflower pods to unsuspecting customers.  That the mercane also traffics in forbidden books of lore about space is an added bonus.

Misfit Monsters Redeemed 34–39 and Pathfinder Bestiary 3 118

I have to tackle two Misfit Monsters Redeemed creatures in one week?  That’s just not fair.  (And I didn’t.  This post is late; I went to Katsucon instead.)

Also, there is a lot to link up there in that intro…so much so I may just skip it.  Give Miéville a Google if you don’t know him.  Not The Star Wars Holiday Special, though.  Don’t ever.

Also, over time I’m coming to believe that organizing your world around the hardest-to-fit elements can sometimes make for the most cohesive settings.  Part of why the Scarred Lands worked so well, for instance, was that druids made sense—they served the titans.  Halflings were servants and slaves.  Gnomes lived in the southern jungles. And even the most bizarre monster tended to owe its existence clearly to a god, titan, or the slarecians.  (And the gods and titans themselves were part of an interconnected family—something that comes standard in mythology and fantasy novels, but that fantasy role-playing has been weak on since Greyhawk.)  It’s easy to pop clerics, dwarves, or hobgoblins into your game.  Know where the druids, gunslingers, monks, paladins, gnomes, halflings—and flumphs—fit in (or don’t—purposefully leaving stuff out is no sin) and you’ve answered a lot of the hard questions.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Flesh Golem

Thematically, flesh golems are…oh wait, Rob McCreary beat me to it in Classic Horrors Revisited: a sign of science gone wrong, things man was not meant to know, fear of the other, the taboo of corpse-robbing.  In terms of campaign role and tactics…no, McCreary has me there, too: a flesh golem might be a lone murderer, a surprise amid a horde of undead, or a Frankenstein’s monster-like scapegoat.  Fine, you all go read CHR, and I’ll be over here thinking up adventure seeds…just like McCreary did.  But remember two things as you go: You cannot construct a flesh golem without spells of the evil descriptor.  And eventually, those spells will fail…

Most serpentfolk devour human slaves who have outlived their usefulness.  Parleck saves his, using them to construct flesh golem guardians.  The tropical sun causes them to bloat horribly (and smell worse) so he usually stations them to guard his underground lab or rents them to serpentfolk mine overseers as muscle.

There is no death penalty in Chalkton per se.  Instead, the verdict rendered is the Rendering.  Murderers, rapists, and more than a few rebels, bards, and political prisoners find themselves sent to the golemworks for processing.  Of course, the flesh golems created from still-twitching flesh (not to mention very reluctant spirits) are notoriously unstable.  Pointing that out, though, makes you a rumormongering journalist, which is even worse than a bard…

Farmer Smythens’s freshly buried youngest brother was one of many corpses used in a flesh golem.  When it finally went berserk and killed the thaumaturge, the brother’s consciousness miraculously came to the fore.  Now Smythens protects and hides his strange brother, even though the boy-thing sometimes tries to sew pieces of other people’s bodies onto himself.

Pathfinder Bestiary 160

I’m not much of a miniatures guy.  And even if I was, I love all things Paizo, so I’d naturally lean toward Paizo miniatures.  But if you want truly evil stitched-together monstrosities, you want Games Workshop’s Warhammer figs.  Especially their ogres

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flame Drake

Things not to like about the Bestiary 2’s drakes: They’re usually packaged as the “degenerate cousins” of true dragons (a stigma the Bestiary 3 drakes escaped).  Things to like about them: Everything else.  Drakes are a great way to insert dragons into an adventure at low to mid-levels without detracting from the majesty of true dragons.  (There’s something depressing about sellswords calling themselves dragonslayers for knocking off a white wyrmling.)  The fact that their packs are called rampages tells you everything else you need to know.

Panicked reports of dragons cause a town to call for aid from anyone who will grant it.  A renegade order of cavaliers answers the call.  By the time the dragons are revealed as flame drakes, the knights have declared martial law and instituted harsh social and religious “reforms.”  Meanwhile, the flame drakes still threaten outlying farms the knights have deemed not worth preserving.

Long infertile, a red dragon bears her first clutch in a century.  The small weak eggs bear only flame drakes, however, not true red dragons.  Rather than reject or kill her stunted offspring outright, the red dragon coddles them and exhorts them to greater acts of violence in her domain.

Flame drake mating season takes place over a village’s thatched roofs, causing mayhem and destruction.  One fireball hits an orphanage, exposing the children to danger—and exposing a child slavery ring with ties to the skulks.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 106

Finally, the Fetchling entry is up and the Fey Creature entry is in the right place!  Check them out (especially the Fetchling).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flail Snail

So, you probably already know that flail snails owe their Bestiary 3 existence to the genius (hubris?) of Misfit Monsters Redeemed—a book that tried to resurrect (and save from themselves) role-playing’s worst monsters.  But of all the monsters in that supplement, the flail snail actually seems the most plausible—mace-like antennae are no weirder than a stag beetle’s horns, and it makes sense that a magical world would breed creatures with innate defenses against it. (Plus, James Sutter’s take on the snails as Zen poets is an intriguing one…and they’re as smart as most linnorms.)  Flail snails are good to throw at cocky spellcasters—all the more so because of their challenge rating, which means that parties will likely encounter the gastropods right as they’re achieving their first big kaboom spells like fireball.

Sometimes a flail snail’s shell can cause spells to act in unpredictable ways.  A botched spell causes Melliflar the Gray to swap minds with a flail snail.  Now a party must protect Melliflar’s body while hunting down his mind, which finds itself trapped and losing focus amid the alien sensation’s of the snail’s body.

Sent to retrieve flail snail shells for an armorer, an adventuring party must face a druid who seeks to protect the beasts, a monk who seeks to commune with them, and morlocks who will eat anything the snail rout doesn’t absorb first.

A mite village lives on a cavern ceiling in a reverse gravity well.  The easiest way to travel there is by trained flail snail steeds.

Misfit Monsters Redeemed 28–33 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 118

In other news, this link is full of good music (starting around minute 2:30), but only good till midnight on Friday, 02/17/12.  Click accordingly.  Best results if you let load in Firefox and Save As an mp3, rather than playing off the Web itself.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fjord Linnorm

The Norsemen have given us some great watery threats, including the kraken and the maelstrom.  Add to that list the fjord linnorm.  Fjord linnorms are excellent threats for higher-level parties because fighting underwater uses up precious spell slots and magical resources…and the linnorm’s death curse might finish off the rare attacker mighty enough to kill it.  And because they haunt fjords, one of these linnorms can easily bottle up shipping, cutting off whole inlets from aid.

Merfolk are beaching themselves on the rocky shoals of Kallgard, refusing to return to the water but unable to exist on land.  A monstrosity of an aboleth has found a way to spread a fjord linnorm’s curse of drowning without killing the dragon (though it does take substantial Constitution damage).

A seaside town sits at the base of craggy alpine cliffs.  It also sits at the border of two linnorms’ domains, paying tributes of fish, seal meat, carvings, and the occasional southern visitor to each.  The dragons were heretofore unaware of each other—the fjord linnorm typically migrated east to warmer waters just as the ice linnorm grew active with the arrival of winter—but this year the fjord linnorm tarried and scented his rival.  Now both dragons want to kill each other and blame the town for the other’s presence.

A shipbuilder wants to test a new kind of studded hull, meant to defeat kraken and sea serpents.  But fjord linnorms don’t entrap or capsize ships; they just breathe on and smash them…

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 183

Apparently over the weekend Paizo’s own Todd Stewart caught my review of Horsemen of the Apocalypse and was nice enough to reply.  I’d thank him for taking the time, but I’m too busy fanboy-squeeing over here to do so with any dignity.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Fire Yai

The addition of oni to Pathfinder is supremely satisfying.  It explains—finally!—ogre magi in a way the world’s oldest role-playing game never did—oh, so they’re spirits that crave and emulate but distort standard physical forms, gotcha—and introduces a whole new class of evil outsiders to fight.  Like divs, oni suggest a side of the Other World we know little about, and they have complex psyches and real motivations beyond destruction (unlike, say, daemons).  And while clearly they owe a debt to Eastern legends, I can easily imagine them in Western adventures as well.  All of which makes fire yai an excellent place to start…

A fire giant tribe captures a mountain sacred to the area’s oracles.  The tribe’s fire yai leader demands the construction of a combination fortress and bathhouse for dark spirits over the sacred hot springs—managing in one fell swoop to claim a home and a source of income, dislocate and disempower potential threats, and serve his own hedonistic instincts.

A fire yai and an ice yai have engaged in a war of insults and skirmishing strikes lasting half a millennia.  Frustrated by the stalemate, and with his fire giant troops being too few in number to send against the ice yai, the fire yai has begun experimenting with alternate forms.  His current favorite is that of an elf, and he is beginning to rally the griffon riders to his cause.

A talking statue claims to be the soul of a wizard trapped in stone by an evil oni.  He sends a party of adventurers to retrieve a rival fire yai’s third eye, claiming that doing so will break the spell.  In reality, the statute is really the mouthpiece of a dybbuk who envies the fire yai’s mortal body and acquisition of physical sensations.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 206

I just finished the DragonEmpires Gazetteer and Horsemen of theApocalypse.  James Jacobs/DaveGross/Rob McCreary’s DGE was a sheer pleasure, just as its preview in KoboldQuarterly suggested.  Paizo has created a wonderful pan-Asian-esque continent I want to explore.  When’s the big fat version come out?

HotA was another mater.  Though I enjoy Todd Stewart’s work on the whole, this was a miserable slog—not because the writing was bad, but because it was too good.  I don’t like Golarion’s daemons, especially when compared to Planescape and 3.0’s yugoloths.  Yugoloths were self-serving mercenaries who switched sides at the drop of a hat.  In other words, they were deliciously fun.  Pathfinder’s daemons, on the other hand, want utter destruction of all mortal souls.  That works logically in the cosmology (demons want to despoil, devils want to corrupt, daemons just want it to end), but it ends up being such a stark, bleak vision that I barely want to read about it, let along contemplate it.

Most role-playing games, ideally, let you fight battles on a grand scale.  Along the way, they often take you out of the world for a while.  But Stewart convinces us in HotA that your characters are definitely, finally going to lose—and along the way, makes you feel the chill of your own mortality in an unrelenting, awful way.  Rather than offer you escapism, you get nihilism and existential dread.  It’s a testament to his writing, but there is such a thing as succeeding too well.  HotA ends up being book I never want to pick up again, full of enemies my characters can only forestall, not vanquish.  It took something of my soul reading it, and that’s not a sensation I care to repeat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fire, Ice & Magma Mephits

As mentioned before, what’s great about mephits is that they have personality—too much personality.  Also, Todd Stewart’s The Great Beyond blew the possibilities for mephits wide open with his azer-enslaving fire mephit theocracy.  There’s no reason the other mephits can’t think as grandly…

Fire mephit inquisitors have a difficult time interrogating apostates—their victims usually being as damage-resistant and immune to fire as they are.  Some experiment with dabbling with cold magic, but since that might also be construed a heresy, most just hope to torture travelers from the Prime Plane—adventuring parties especially.

When they deign to notice humanoids, ice mephits often reveal themselves to be sadists.  Normally others are beneath their notice, but they do find warm-blooded creatures’ reactions to cold intriguing, especially when augmented by their sickening breath weapons and spell-like abilities.

Murt the magma mephit is unlike his peers; they are brutes, and he is a poet.  What this means is that rather than trying to bully interlopers with fire, he bullies them with demands they critique his work.  Then he bullies them with fire for being too critical.

Pathfinder Bestiary 202–203

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fire Giant

Fire giants make for excellent mid- to high-level threats.  Where else are you likely to find a lair where hell hounds come standard, with the optional red dragon or pyrohydra upgrade (not to mention the troll and ettin servant package)?  And Paizo’s fire giants are as likely to be hanging out in the desert or underground as in some Viking landscape.  They’re also militaristic, so it’s easy to imagine them in adventures typically sized for hobgoblins or Wizards of the Coast’s githyanki.  In fact, there’s no reason they can’t be the big bad guys in an entire campaign arc.  After all, in the closing act of the Ragnarök, it’s no god who sets the world on fire—it’s a fire giant…

The mark of a truly cosmopolitan city is one where giants mingle as easily as people.  Surt the Smith is a fire giant who has lived in Greater Elb for years.  He is also a sleeper agent for the General’s Embers, a fire giant military fraternity.  When three vargouilles fly into his forge and burst into flames, he trades his aprons for armor and attempts to kill Greater Elb’s half-elven High Council that very night.

Fire giants rule an empire to the south, following the deserts and mountains across half a subcontinent and ruling over humans, dwarves, azers, ettins, trolls, and olive treants alike.  Now they begin to menace the coastal cities with copper and steel war machines.  A party of adventurers is sent to take out fire giant high sultan.  But first, they must find the lair of some unlikely allies: the mountain fortress of the tengu hashashin.

The planar realm of Jotunlandt’s fire giants are training for a war—a war that will reclaim reality for giantkind or burn it to cinders.  Their leader is an animated decapitated head of a titan that dwells in the hot springs at the base of Jotunlandt’s highest peak (a peak so high it pierces the Rook of the Rocs, a mythical aerie).  When not directing the fire giants, the titan head will answer three questions any humanoid puts to it.  It is compelled to do this by the same geas that keeps it animated…but it is not required to keep its fire giant thralls from harming any and all humanoids impertinent enough to try.

Pathfinder Bestiary 124–125

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fire Elemental

Fire elementals are the most boring inhabitants —spoiler alert: they like to burn things—of the most boring Elemental Plane—spoiler alert: it sucks, everything’s on fire except the efreet, and they hate you.  But if Bruce Heard’s classic AC11 The Book of Wondrous Inventions teaches us anything, it’s that fire elementals don’t have to be interesting—the giant steam-powered war machine they’re magically bound to stoke the boiler for has “interesting” pretty much covered.

A revolution in steam heating and plumbing comes to Templeton, with all the high class manor homes having new baths, washers, and radiators installed to take advantage of the Professor Flammel’s Elemental Dynamic System & Boiler.  Then the bindings on the hurriedly bound fire elementals begin to collapse.  Oh, and the fire brigade is composed entirely of half-orcs, currently on strike…

Many fire elementals exhibit serpentine forms.  A summoner/wizard (and noted dilettante) has taken to summoning fire elementals to study and mold his eidolon after.  Using artifacts from a lucky tomb raid to harness creatures above his ability level, he soon begins summoning creatures past his ability to control.

In one realm of existence, the Planes of Air and Fire exist in opposition.  Envoys from the elemental queens meet once a decade on a blasted otherworldly prairie, to hold strange formal talks that appear to take place entirely through dance.  A party of adventurers is sent to capture and bottle the strange superheated energies released during the meeting.  But doing so will almost certainly enrage both parties…

Pathfinder Bestiary 124–125

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fire & Giant Stag Beetles

Fire beetles are one of the ur-vermin of RPG ecologies.  Giant stag beetles are National Geographic gone Carboniferous.

A theater is renowned for its special effects.  The lighting master’s secrets are his caged fire and flash beetles.  Their constant use has made them a bit temperamental and occasionally nippy, causing the cast to loathe them.  The theater has also suffered damage when the lightning master has accidentally mistaken a mining beetle for a fire one—the larger bug’s ability to burrow making it quite the escape artist.

Loggers hate giant stag beetles, but certain forest gnomes love them. If kept fat with decaying wood, they train easily enough, and the beetle’s young male riders are as eager to show off their mounts’ antlers and jousting prowess as the stag beetles are themselves.

An alchemist has a particularly nasty alarm system.  Every time he opens the front door—and only for appointments—he tosses some produce into the cage containing his pet bombardier beetle.  Anyone else opening the door has only a round to act before receiving a spray of acid.

Pathfinder Bestiary 33

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fey Creature

Neither the world of Faerie nor Paizo’s First World can be described by the Fey monster list alone.  The fey creature template makes almost every monster fair game for bringing faeries and fairy tales life.  (Plus, the fey do like their dalliances.)

In the hands of a leprechaun, a wand of enlarge person becomes something else entirely, causing fey giant toads to overrun the landscape.

The fey centaurs of Faerie are even more suspicious of humans than their mortal cousins.  Thanks to their change shape ability, they spend most of their time in horse form.  If accosted, they fly off in a brilliant flash of impossibly large butterfly wings…or fight back with poison-tipped spears.

Most fey creatures are more capricious than their mortal cousins—sometimes to the point of sadism.  But the fey kobolds’ temperaments are actually an improvement.  Relieved of the constant struggle for survival thanks to their fey natures and their ability to vanish, fey kobolds instead keep to themselves, mining by candlelight in the same manner as pechs.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 116–117

Yes, Brian Froud’s Faeries is awesome.  Yes, I have based these kobolds on his.  Frankly I hate 3.0’s draconic kobolds—I miss the doglike kobolds of Mystara.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Denizens of the Plane of Shadow, fetchlings are hard to hit and even harder to get to know.  They can be found throughout the multiverse wherever there are shady deals (figuratively and literally) to be made.  While not evil, being descended from humans trapped on the Plane of Shadow has left its mark on the kayal, and not just in terms of their abilities.  Some might be desperate for a sense of place, desperate to never stay in one place, envious of the Material Plane, or even downright paranoid—but all are stained in some way.

In response to the trauma of being trapped for generations on the Plane of Shadow—a plane that at once mimics the Material Plane and distorts those echoes—many fetchling communities adopted philosophical schools, almost like guilds, to guide their actions.  Even now that fetchlings have regained planar travel, many of these schools still have influence.  The Methodists—their name came from a treatise called On the Methods of Architecture carried to the plane by their founder—seek to recreate specific Material World communities and constructions as faithfully as possible.  Far from being the monks their name implies, the Reflectives, or Mirror Men, form societies that are polar opposite of the ones their ancestors knew—rejecting matriarchies for patriarchies, devil worship for azata veneration, enchantment for necromancy, or asceticism for hedonism.  The Sparks are wizards specializing in light-altering Illusion and Evocation spells.  Then there are the Extinguishers, who seek to snuff out the lives of anyone from the Material Plane they meet.

Not all fetchlings are traders or middleman.  Fetchling barbarians roam the Deep Shadow, wielding wicked handaxes and leading shadow mastiffs.

A fetchling seeks to track down his shae mother, but has only her mask to remember her by.  His guild, which up till now has always supported him, is suddenly very anxious to see that he dies before succeeding.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 123

Yes, I finally got this entry up and in the proper ABC order, though the link is still wonky.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Introduced in Tim Hitchcock’s module Hungry Are the Dead (along with several variants), festrogs are animalistic undead similar to ghouls—a good low-CR option that’s viscerally disturbing but avoids the risk of total party kill by paralysis.  Because of their unique genesis, truly perceptive undead hunters might be able to track them by seeking out the violation that spawned them.

Girard of the Hounds is a young necromancer who specializes in canine undead.  Festrogs are his favorite servants, easy to control yet still terrifying for their feeding habits and contagious pustules.

The warpriests of Karth breed festrogs in their concentration camps by killing prisoners of war with negative energy, then allowing the canine units to maul the dead.  As the camps are always in occupied lands, the warpriests don’t bother to contain the undead, but instead release them wild to terrify the locals into keeping curfew.

The Trollpeaks are notorious for trolls, packs of mangy wolves, and the ceaseless sense of unease experienced by travelers there.  Many a body that falls under this miasma rises as a festrog…and some of the bodies aren’t even dead when the change occurs.

Hungry Are the Dead 30–31 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 115