Wednesday, May 23, 2012


We’ve talked before about how weird decisions made early in the history of the world’s oldest role-playing game have embedded themselves in fantasy gaming’s DNA.  The gorgon is a classic example of this.  In Greek myths, gorgons were what we call medusas, and Medusa herself was just one named member of the species.  (Stheno and Euryale probably feel slighted that they don’t get her press, but then again, they got to keep their heads.) 

But Gary Gygax and/or Dave Arneson slapped the label on a stony bull-like monster (I’m assuming as some play on the verb “gore”) and it’s been part of the game ever since.  In the “basic” D&D I played as a kid, gorgons had ties to the Plane of Earth; where they fit in your campaign ecosystem is up to you.

Gorgons resist being herded, but they can be goaded.  Evil stone giants regularly drive gorgons toward human towns. The resulting mayhem leaves the battered settlements ripe for raiding, and the gorgons (now fat on the stony flesh of petrified citizens) ripe for slaughtering.

The breath of a gorgon is often one of the only things that can harm artifacts of moderate power. Destroying such an artifact can thus require travel deep below the earth, where gorgons thrive in distant caverns.  Assuming the explorers can avoid the gorgons’ petrifying clouds, they must also avoid the underworld dragons who jealously guard those lands.

Gorgons arose in the Realms Between, on stony worlds bathed in the energies of the Plane of Earth and the Material alike.  There oreads tend the placid beasts on rocky, butte-studded steppes, defending them from the predations of rocs and feral barghest packs.  It is only when gorgons migrate to other planes that they become so aggressive, driven mad by nutritional needs the foreign environments cannot meet.

Pathfinder Bestiary 165

Edit: This is what I get for posting early.  I completely missed today’s Moog-honoring Google doodle!  I think I just had an Emerson, Lake & Palmer-gasm.  Or maybe a Karmella’s Game experience?

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