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.


  1. I'm not sure if I should be flattered by your review of BotD 3 or not. :)

    It's the trouble of writing about creatures that cannot be sympathized with, and whose world view is so utterly antithetical to the audience. I'd hoped to have portrayed them in such a light as to inspire folks to want to have their PCs stop them, especially since unlike the classic yugoloths, PF's daemons are much more fragile and dare I say mortal in their character.

    While the yugoloths had the primordial ur-fiend baernaloths guiding them along as a virtually all-knowing and unstoppable hand, the daemons are completely rudderless. They're devoured by their own racial ideology but at the same time they don't necessarily entirely understand it, or their own nature, and the one creature that could have answered their questions (the Oinodaemon / The Broken Prince)... well... they killed/imprisoned it. Unlike the 'loths, they're intended to be much more flawed and miserable creatures, and by not having that backing and direction, much more likely to be stopped (and unlike the 'loths, the daemons might actually have to be worried about deific intervention).

  2. Todd, obviously, I'm blown away you found my post in the first place, let alone replied—I very much appreciate it. (And don't worry, I've raved about your work, especially The Great Beyond, plenty in these posts... You even made mephits cool!)

    And yes, my review was definitely a compliment, if the most horribly backhanded one. You did such a good job of capturing the Four's evil that while I recognized the book was good, I was more inspired to turn on all the lights in the house than pick up a d20. :-)

    That rudderless gloss on the daemons is something I missed on my first read, so I'll have to revisit with that in mind.

    I also would have loved more on the Oinodaemon...and for that matter, divs, hags, etc.!

    It's probably clear from my posts, but I dig both mythology and things on the I'm more interested in divs than daemons, demodands than demons, linnorms than dragons, etc.

    Actually, that's the only problem with Pathfinder's slimmer books and more streamlined cosmology of Golarion vs. The Great Wheel—there's only so much page space to work with, and there are fewer in-between planes like Carceri or Pandemonium. If Paizo ever wants to do a Demiplanes of Golarion/Multiversal Misfits book...faeries, titans, divs, demodands, etc....I'd be first in line to buy it. :-)

    1. How could I make mephits cool? They've always been cool! :D I did indeed have fun with the fire mephit matriarch.

      As far as rudderless, I have to do another read through of the published text to see how obvious that subtext ended up being, or if I'm back-inserting my feelings on them inclusive of unpublished stuff, stuff from other sources, etc. But the intent was for that atmosphere to be present in their description.

      There's more on the Oinodaemon, it's just floating around in my head and on my desktop, rather than in the book itself. There was a discrete page limit to go into details on him/her/it, and a desire to avoid talking about it versus the Four, since they're in complete control and to go on about it would make them lesser figures by comparison (which at this stage in history they aren't). There are some easter eggs present throughout the text though that talk about it obliquely though. Little things like the Withered Footsteps description in the 'books on daemons' section.

      And I'll agree, that oftentimes the creatures on the margins are more tantalizing, simply because we can usually only give them a brief bit of lore, and we try to make it the best we can, so there's only that nugget of awesome and it isn't watered down by familiarity which can plague the more common outsiders at times.

      And oh man, I'd adore working on a demiplanes book. There are so so so many areas of the Golarion multiverse I didn't have the page space to detail, or to detail in enough detail. Galisemni the City of the Celestial and the Damned, the Prison of the Laughing Fiend, a number of others. We'll see what the future holds of course, but if Paizo ever wanted to explore the cosmos more, I'd jump at it.