Friday, September 28, 2012


Edit: There were so many typos in this entry I had no choice but to come in and edit them.  But that means this weird arrow now appears in the post.  There is no getting rid of it, without ruining the font size of the entire rest of the post.  To fix that, I would have to reënter all the text, as well as redo all the hyperlinks, etc.  Not to mention the weird spacing issues in yesterday's post.  Why?  Because Blogger sucks.  This is why I moved to Tumblr. I apologize to you all—you deserve a clean, easy-to-read blog.  Blogger won't ----ing let me deliver you that.  Every time you see the arrow above, that's me giving in to its stupidity.

When I worked on the imenetsh entry a few weeks ago, I remember feeling vaguely dissatisfied, like I remembered reading more about the proteans that I couldn’t find in The Great Beyond.  Turns out I was right: I had completely overlooked the imenteshes’ introduction in Pathfinder Adventure Path #22: The End of Eternity, as well as the massive “Keepers of Chaos” article by Todd Stewart in the same issue.  (Sorry, Todd!)

So if you want a proper Golarion take on the keketar proteans, go to any of the above.  (I also love the spread/vignette on pp. 138–139 of the GameMastery Guide for a sense of how an attacking protean might speak. And you should note that the stats for keketars are much meatier in The Great Beyond—any weapon they bond with becomes dancing!)  In particular “Keepers of Chaos” is pretty much mandatory if you want to explore the keketars’ strange cabals known as choruses.

If you can’t get your hands on the above, the next thing you should do is go to your local alternative magazine shop and pick up some graffiti magazines.  If you’ve never done this, you must—at least for me, it’s an entry into a world with an entirely different ethos and set of norms.  (I may be an indie rocker, but I’m also an Eagle Scout, so as artsy as I pretend to be, sentences like the previous one point me out as a square pronto.)  It’s a culture where the First Amendment is sacrosanct, notions of property are outdated at best and offensive at worst (especially if claimed by the government or faceless corporations), and—most importantly—the whole world is a canvas.

Read about those dudes, then imagine them armed not with spray cans, but with reality-bending magic and claws.  That’s your keketar chorus right there.

Also, there’s no reason you have to have keketars be emissaries of the Maelstrom/Limbo/Entropy/Chaos in your game.  Given their shapes and powers, in your campaign they might be fallen couatls, elevated serpent folk, or a unique branch of dragons.  With mysterious glyphs floating about their heads and the ability to remake reality, they will make your players take notice.

Climbing the Infinite Staircase between the planes, a party of adventurers discovers a keketar protean turning it into a glacier.  He appears to notice (and certainly speaks to) only the males in the group less than five feet tall.  Those are also the first ones he attacks.

The Chorus of a Thousand Insignificant Doors is dedicated to erasing the too-rigid boundaries between the planes.  These keketar proteans specialize in turning basilica doors, triumphal arches, and other portals into rifts to other demiplanes.  Most recently, they inverted a transmuter’s bottle laboratory into a lighthouse, filled the tulip- and windmill-lined streets of Elveers with necrotic sand from the Scarab’s Eye, and turned the Temple of the Marble Gavel into the intestinal tract of Phage, the Living Hungry Flesh.

On the world of Typhon, the deities and their servants all take reptilian forms.  Primal dragons speak for the elements, for instance, most of the gods count a race of true dragon or linnorms as their worshippers, and couatls are the Bringers of Law.  Proteans—the Unmakers, the servants of Entropy—are feared by all, and the arrival of a chorus of keketar proteans is regarded the way a visit from a lich archmage or a pit fiend might be seen on other worlds.

The Great Beyond 60–61 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 215

Apologies for the late entries all this week.  Work crazy.  I’ll try to be more on top next week.  It seems like the sweet spot for most of you is when I drop entries early in the afternoon Baltimore time, so I’ll try to get back to that.  And keep those random rolls coming!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Keches are jungle ape-humanoids, each as large as a man…and quite happy to devour a man as well.  Of course, that hardly sets them apart from similar ape creatures, particularly the infamous charau-ka (from several Pathfinder books, including Pathfinder Adventure Path #40: Vaults of Madness, Heart of the Jungle, and The Inner Sea World Guide).  So what sets them apart?

1) Their size: Medium, compared to the Small charau-ka and various Large apes such as dire apes.  2) Their coloration: a green-and-brown camouflage that actually shifts as they pass without a trace.  3) Their unique taboos and hungers: they won’t cannibalize other apes, but delight in forcing their humanoid captives to watch the keches eat their fellows.  4) Their druidic faith or worship of the Horsemen, evil gods, or elemental lords: most other evil apes are demon worshippers.  Finally, 5) Their envy of other humanoids.

This last is a good role-playing/adventure hook.  Remember King Louie from Disney’s Jungle Book?  His burning (ha!) desire to learn the power of fire and emulate mankind?  The keches are like that but worse.  Other apes are happy to raid human villages and move on, but only keches move in.  One can argue that’s sheer convenience—human villages have roofs and walls to shelter beneath, stores to deplete, etc.—but there is an element of (forgive me) monkey-see, monkey-do to the keches.  They loathe humans and other humanoids…and yet feel compelled to not just take, but take over, their homes and lives.

Not all keches live in jungles.  A hardy variety lives in the pine forests of the Obsidian Shogunate.  Their camouflaged skins have inspired the techniques of at least one ninja clan, while their evil acts have caused the Obsidian samurai to outlaw and hunt down all monkey-men of any kind, including vanaras, and most druids of any species as well.

Most keches worship the green path of the druids, or revere a powerful evil or elemental figure.  The keches of Geerwana, however, engage in a strange cargo cult.  They scour their jungles’ rivers, beaches, and ruins for bottles, jars, and jugs of any sort, which they religiously gather up, clean, enshrine, and ritually rub.  The genesis of this strange faith was a crashed airship in which a kech adept found several bottles with noble genies trapped inside.  The resulting wishcraft made him an undying sage and changed Geerwana kech society forever.  Their appetites remain unchecked, however, and they will still eagerly devour any humanoids they come across who cannot produce a mystical vessel of any sort.

Merriwynneth is princess of a magical elven isle, Most Evanescent Pa’ar, that floats along the waves wherever the wind propels it.  (Upon landfall, it lingers for anywhere from a day to a month before moving on.)  After aiding Merriwynneth, a cavalier earns a Pa’aran knighthood from her father, which (among other things) may be seen as the first step in a betrothal to her.  This incenses a storm giant youth who has visited Most Evanescent Pa’ar on numerous occasions to moon over the princess.  In a fit of rage, he opens his father’s bag of winds, sending a cyclone to blow Pa’ar to the vile lands of the Southeast.  He and all the residents of Pa’ar come to regret his actions when the floating island beaches on a jungle peninsula peopled by nothing but violent, envious kech archers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 167

Reader martyparty23 joined in today’s concepting, offering us three random rolls from the GameMastery Guide (Table 4-7: NPC rewards p.98; 7-57: Types of weather, p. 224; 7-50: Undiscovered islands p.216).  His results: Offer the hand of a relative in marriage/Cyclone: a violent destructive storm/Floating island that travels wherever the wind blows. 

Keep sending or Gmailing (dailybestiary [at] etc.) those random rolls!

By the way, an anonymous reader had more to share about yesterday’s kappa entry: Kappa are one of the most popular yokai, and you've absolutely hit on why: they can be comical, menacing or social depending on the story and the context. And a menacing kappa is very menacing indeed: their favorite food is the "shirikodama", a mythical ball of flesh found by sucking a human's intestines out through the anus. Fortunately, they're also quite fond of cucumber, hence the "kappa rolls" in sushi restaurants.

I don’t think charau-ka are in the Bestiaries, at least not that I recall.  They have appeared in enough other Golarion supplements, though, and I’ve rarely seen a new fantasy race so vigorously and clearly portrayed.

Finally, this discussion of the keches is taking me back to Religion 101 and 302.  Food taboos are one of the essential ways humans establish who we are…and in the absence of concerns such as health (among kosher and halal foods’ merits is that they avoid the parasites common to pigs, for instance) often the forbidden food is exactly what the tribe next door loves.  We know we are not our neighbors—and indeed, know we are human, not animals—because we will not stoop to eat what they do…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Edit: In Safari, the Kappa and Kangaroo entries seem to be mashed up. Try the Tumblr versions here and here.

There’s a wealth of folklore out there about the bowl-headed, turtle-like kappa that one day I’m going to have to fully explore.  (Japanese myths and legends are not my strong suit, and the little I know has come filtered through anime.)  If you have that knowledge, you’re a step ahead (and feel free to tell us what more we should know!); if not, kappas are still a fantastic edition to your game.  At CR 2 they’re excellent low-level encounters that give both the GM and the PCs lots of room for creativity: kappas can be straight-up monsters, unlikely benefactors, comic relief, or a mix of all three, and how they react to your party (and vice versa) can be determined by attack roles, Diplomacy and Intimidation checks, straight-up role-playing, or (again) all three.  They’re a great replacement for trolls in the riddling-monster-under-the-bridge department, and the can be surprising villains for parties who expect every watery prank to involve a nixie.  And with their unique head bowls, they’re also creatures straight out of folklore and myth—indeed, an encounter with a kappa might be what inspires young villagers to leave their homes and become adventurers in the first place.

A party of adventurers meets a kappa in the temple raiment of a human priest devoted to ancestor worship.  That’s odd enough, but so is his location: climbing an arid mountain far from his watery home.  Sixty years ago a priest saved the kappa’s life, and the kappa became his assistant in return.  Now the priest lies dying unless the kappa can find powdered dragon claw for his medicine.  A party of adventurers could be a boon to him, but in his pride, distress, and discomfort so far from home he’s as likely to yell at or even attack them as he is to ask for aid.

Kappas are occasionally truly dangerous and lustful creatures.  A degenerate kappa known as Migurushii (“ugly”) has haunted a hot spring for years, devouring lone men and assaulting lone women.  Now a wrestling school for girls has opened up nearby.  Depending on the skill of the young monks, they could be easy prey, or Migurushii will finally pay for his dark appetites.

A lich, long the bane of the Daggerkite Peaks, has been destroyed by a strike force of sun clerics and other divine agents.  But the hunt is on for his phylactery.  Meanwhile, in the dike- and canal-dotted city of Delph, a kappa is terrified.  For years he has dwelt in a sunken grotto beneath the famous fountain in St. Yasin’s Plaza, accompanied by his tame phantom fungus companion.  The pair has led an idyllic life—the kappa delights in tormenting passersby at dusk and dawn, while the phantom fungus feeds well on local swans, pelicans, and drunks after dark.  But for the past three days, a skeleton has begun assembling itself out of nothing in the kappa’s grotto.  The aquatic humanoid is terrified, but can’t risk going for help without exposing his lair and his hungry pet to strangers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 166

I still recall me first kappa encounter: the cover of Dragon Magazine 151.  (I’m leaving that typo in because it makes me sound like a pirate.)

Speaking of pirates, swashbuckling reader Nick mixed some Magnimar and GameMastery Guide encounter tables to give us one last set of adventure seeds: Phantom fungus/Lich's phylactery/In a plaza.  Challenge accepted!

Of course, only after laboring to figure out a way to get combine a kappa, a fungus, and one of the undead did I realize the answer should have been obvious: base the adventure seed on a level of Super Mario Bros. 3 and call it a day.

More reader adventure hooks on the way!  If you want to join in, Gmail or send me your dice roll results.  Thanks!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kangaroo & Thylacine

Edit: In Safari, the Kappa and Kangaroo entries seem to be mashed up. Try the Tumblr versions here and here.

Marsupials tend to be signifiers of isolated worlds or island realms, à la Australia.  If you show your players a kangaroo, they’re probably going to expect boomerangs and bunyips, too, and that’s a good thing. 

Then again, we’re pretty happy to mix American and European animals (how many times has a raccoon shown up in your version of Sherwood Forest?), so if you want kangaroos to go loping over the same plains as bison and wildebeests, be my guest.  Having the neighboring gnomes farm kangaroos instead of Holsteins is definitely a shift toward the fantastic.

That said, while I can easily see fighting the cat/wolf-like thylacines, I hope kangaroos were only statted up as animal companions (or as game in a wilderness survival scenario).  I don’t know if I want to hang out with players who would hunt them solely for the XP…

More toad-like gripplis sometimes ride kangaroos, referring to them affectionately as “Big Hoppers” to their “Little Hopper” selves.  The often paint the kangaroos to match their own mottled colorings, and some of these paints have magical powers.

Explorers stranded on an island of marsupials find themselves hunted by wolf-like creatures.  Lacking shelter or an ability to outrun the beasts, they take to the trees—only to find their thylacine pursuers are just as much cat as wolf, and the beasts eagerly chase up the branches after them.  The fight disturbs the area’s other arboreal residents: variant Small-sized marsupial gargoyles with rat-like faces.

Adventurers and cities don’t mix easily—even the most good-hearted parties end up breaking a few laws.  After their latest legal dustup, a group of sellswords find themselves transported to an isolated colony.  The new colony is a struggling affair built on the ruins of an old settlement whose inhabitants all disappeared.  A week after the party arrives, one possible reason presents itself: a typhoon strikes, rendering much of the town uninhabitable.  The citizens hope to shelter in the old colony’s abandoned church, but must contend with giant cockroaches within and packs of storm-rattled, hungry thylacines without.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 191

I took that picture.  In Australia!

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post (it went up really late—thanks, 12-hour workday!) be sure to check it out.  Reader Nick’s random rolls resulted in a really fantastic adventure hook I’d love to work into a session.

His rolls for today, on the same charts: Giant cockroaches/New home for displaced people/In a church.  See above.

Want to contribute?  Pick three charts from the GameMastery Guide or your favorite adventures, roll d20s, and Gmail or send me the results.

Also, for fans of my radio show (y’know, both of you), there was an episode this week, but the station website is down so the show didn’t get recorded.  I did make a mix of the playlist, though; I just need time to figure out how best to share it.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Regular Paizo blog followers (I confess to being only semi-regular, so don’t look at me) already know that hyphenated Paizo designer Stephen Radney-MacFarland likes the kamadan.  It’s not a magical beast I knew, so I took one look at the snake-shoulders and assumed it was Paizo’s analog for the world’s oldest role-playing game’s displacer beasts.  But it turns out it dates all the way back to the Fiend Folio (here’s where not being a 1e player puts me at a disadvantage) and Maztica.

Given the kamadan’s form, one has to assume magical, divine/mythical, or extraterrestrial origins, but it long ago adapted to the wider world.  Its sleep gas is useful for knocking out all kinds of prey, it’s smart enough to work alone or as part of a pride, and it might be found anywhere, with subspecies having adapted to several environments.

The couatls of Yeztal send a party of braves to investigate the silence of their sister city to the south, after several message runners have failed to return and signal fires gone answered.  The braves find the pyramid-topped city of Tolp silent, with no living creature present except for the cages of sacred parrots and prides of feral, ferocious kamadans.

Svirfneblin warn spelunking adventurers not to continue, that there are beasts in the mazelike caverns that will hunt them down.  Having bested a minotaur in these very halls, the adventurers laugh off the warning.  But they are unprepared for the pride of subterranean dusk kamadans that are as home in the dizzying tunnels as the minotaur was.

Gold rush fever has struck the Dire North.  And with it come disputes, claim jumping, and murders.  An assembly in the town hall turns to chaos when grizzled and bruised prospector Ephraim Shrike accuses merchant Mars Ironshield of sending thugs to pressure him out of his claim, nearly crippling one of his legs.  Shrike’s theory seems to be confirmed when an onlooker catches sight of an expensive iron cobra absconding with the deed in question right in the middle of their dispute, the paper locked in its metal mouth.  But before it can be stopped, there is a more immediate concern: a winged polar kamadan bursts through the window.  Having tracked the bloodied Shrike for days after being wounded by one of his traps, the pain-maddened kamadan is determined to have both its revenge and a feast.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 158

Reader Nick came through with some dice rolls (and even the chart/page numbers they came from), turning to Pathfinder Adventure Path 61: Shards of Sin (Magnimar Encounters, p. 79),  and the GameMastery Guide (2.3 MacGuffins and Quest Items, p. 53; 7.40 100 City Locations, p. 211) to serve up two delightful and one how-the-hell-am-I-gonna-work-that-in sets of hooks.

So for you, Nick: Iron cobra/Land grab/In the town hall.  Thanks! 

Look for his other hooks over the next couple of days.  Everyone else, feel free to drop some d20s and tell me what you get.  Cheers!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Kalavakus demons are made from the souls of slavers, to enslave yet again in the afterlife.  Their greatest trick is to enslave souls—an ability that makes the target that much more susceptible to their various enchantments, and turns their victims into walking potential potions of heal.

Do-gooders fight a kalavakus who always surrounds itself with a quartet of drugged slaves in chains.  Should it be badly bloodied in combat, the demon enslaves the soul of one of four, then uses telekinesis to snuff the slave’s life with the chains, healing itself as a result.

Lazy gnolls and horned demons have immense affinity for each other as bestial creatures who lord over others for sustenance and leisure.  But gnoll deities and demons also jealously squabble and jockey for rank like any hyena pack.  A party hunting gnoll slavers led by a kalavakus might find itself allied with or caught between gnoll packs devoted to powers of slaughter, disease, and gross fertility…each with their own demonic emissaries…

Perched on a planar bay that serves tributaries of both Oceania and the Styx, Whydah is a city frequented by slavers.  The mercane and vishkanyas who run Whydah have performed a neat trick—contracting kolyaruts and zelekhut inevitables to police the slave pits (known ironically as the Hope Terrace) while keeping the largely lawless city neutral in alignment (to prevent planar migration).  Thus, kalavakus demons are common visitors, and they delight in using their enslaving gazes to smuggle away new chattel from right under the inevitables’ notice.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 78

Old business: Can I get a do-over on the jungle giant?  I woke up the other morning wanting to run/play in a whole campaign where PCs try to found a jungle colony on the ruins of an older city, only to have to simultaneously ward off attacks from Lovecraftian things down below and mastodon-riding jungle giants at the palisade walls.

Also, I have super-polite readers—lots of nice notes, no dice rolls.  Don’t be afraid to jump in with some.  Help craft some adventure seeds (or just watch me bend over backwards trying to cobble a hook out of your evil rolls).

New business: It’s already the letter K!  This is the speedy section of the alphabet.

“Kalavakus” has this cool Eastern European ring to it.  I wish I knew anything about Eastern Europe.  Literally every thing I know comes from one Bosnian Muslim friend from college (now a doctor in Vermont), one trip to Prague, and Dragon 290—Paul Leach’s triplet articles “Red Sails: Tempests on the Steppes,” “Red Sails: Bright Sun, Mother Earth,” and “Red Sails: Fell and Forlorn Bestiary: Monsters of Eastern Europe” were wonders of early 3.0 writing/design, when any campaign was possible.

I stole the name “Whydah” from here.  History!

Quick reviews: Finally getting through my reading backlog.  The last Skull & Shackles entry Pathfinder Adventure Path #60: From Hell’s Heart may have by necessity had slightly less adventure (the final issues always do, thanks to the big stat blocks), but was simply overflowing with unique monsters and adventure hooks.  If you like this blog, you will like that issue.

Blood of Dragonscar I should have loved (a dragon that swallowed a gem that swallows souls!) but it lacked a certain oomph, at least as a read (though I suspect it plays much better; I don't have a lot of experience with high-level campaigns and reviews online loved it).  Rather than pages of possible hazards on the way to the dragon’s lair, I definitely could have used another map or two of the mountain lair itself.  The recently released The Moonscar took us to Golarion’s moon and featured a really nice variety of monsters.  My only complaint is the usual Patch one: I wanted more!  After all, it’s the moon(!) and for 16th(!)-level characters.  I don’t know the publishing/printing economics, but I would have paid a little more for the signatures necessary for a 48- or 64-page book; 32 felt like too short a visit.  But I absolutely loved Stephen S. Greer’s No Response from Deepmar and am surprised the reviews online seem so mixed.  It pulled off the neat trick of providing both a story and a dungeon crawl really well without forcing the hand of either.  Ignore the mixed reviews and give it a look.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


In my experience, there is nothing—nothing—players hate so much as an NPC or monster they think should be on their side but isn’t.

Here’s an experiment: Have an NPC steal a valuable magic item from them, torch their home village, send them to another plane, and then resurrect after they finally kill him. 

Now have a paladin reprimand them for breaking a church window and charge them for healing.

I guarantee you they will be sputtering curses at that paladin to their graves.

So the jyoti will drive them absolutely insane—especially if you’ve primed them with some nasty Negative Energy Plane encounters so that they associate Negative with evil.  Naturally they’ll make assumptions about the goodness of the Positive.  Give them a run-in with some shadows or sceaduinar or a lich or two…then shift venues so they discover the bright wonder of the Positive Energy Plane…let them bask in the warm, healing power of all the potential energy in the universe…

…And then introduce them to these xenophobic jerks and watch the feathers fly.

The jellyfish-like construction of the Solar Skimmer seems perfect for exploring the brightness of the Positive Energy Plane—but its light and airy decks are little protection from a flight of jyoti.  They attack the Skimmer’s crew and abduct any divine spellcasters for incarceration and exile.

An adventurer suffers a wasting disease no cleric can cure.  His friends take him to the Positive Energy Plane to recuperate.  There they stumble into a planar politic crisis—a sun deity of their world is attempting to establish a mission in one of the jyoti’s crystal cities, and the jyoti have sealed their world’s gate of souls in answer.

The sceaduinar claim the jyoti stole the gift of creation from them.  In at least one reality this is true—but the sceaduinar have taken it back in the form of writing.  Though words on parchment are of little use on their umbral plane, a few sceaduinar who took the time to study their foes the undead realized what store creatures on other planes set on these ink scratchings.  They have commissioned their story, the story of the jyoti’s crime, to be published—and the jyoti, incensed, have launched a multiverse-wide crusade to burn every copy.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 171

Have you sent me your dice rolls yet (details here)?  Get on that!

What I said above about hating paladins?  Dude, that included my paladin.  My double-sword-wielding, fire-resistant, laid-on-hands-whenever-they-asked paladin of Iomedae that they made baroness (Kingmaker Adventure Path) over her (and my) objections because of her high Charisma…and then immediately started to loathe for no reason.  It was so galling.  And before you think it’s me (a fair suspicion), they had no problems with my slightly haughty elven eldritch knight, my blatantly chauvinist rogue, and since I’ve taken a few weeks off they keep asking when my halfling cleric (secretly of Calistria) is going to come back.

Meanwhile, to this very day they refer to my paladin as “George Bush.”  The mind boggles.

(She even let them have a brothel provided it was unisex and the staff well treated.  Still: George.  Bush.)

(The worst part was the campaign concluded while I was in on vacation for three weeks in Australia, culminating in encounters with both a demon and a red dragon that she was basically specifically designed to fight.  I nearly sobbed when the GM told me I was a week late.) 

“Jyoti” means “auspicious flame” in Sanskrit.  Well played, Paizo.  Note to all Forgotten Realms monster designers: yes, you can do more than just combine random syllables.

And I didn’t even mention their breath weapons or spell-like abilities or ghost touch weaponry or…

Flo was awesome.  I was stunned at how packed the place was—somehow I hadn’t quite grasped (though I should have) how big she’d blown up.  I also had never seen her live, so I was expecting a Tori-style woman/piano/band rock show, not a full-on operatic pop spectacle.  (I was likewise stunned at how earnestly over-the-top she was—none of the winking, I’ll-take-the-piss-out-of-myself-before-you-can that I expect from British musicians.  Then again, if you rise quickly and unabashedly enough, the Brits will sometimes give you a total pass, earned (Flo) or not (Oasis).)

And the night was perfect, too—I’m now regretting not getting Metric tickets for Friday.  I told myself I couldn’t handle two goth-pop acts in one week, but the just-slightly-crisp September night was so amazing and energizing maybe I should change my mind.

(And before you Flo fans bristle at that “goth-pop” label: 1) there was a harp and two drummers, 2) she ordered us around like a prim but demure dominatrix, 3) she had us put our neighbors on our shoulders as “human sacrifices,” and 4) she invoked the moon and stars while plaintively gesturing toward the actual moon and/or stars.  Happy goth who likes colors and trees, but still: goth.  The fact that Wikipedia calls her indie rock (especially after a #2-charting debut album) is a joke.  There hasn’t been a star that so totally fooled her suburban North Face-wearing audience since a band called Queen successfully convinced America they were an arena rock band and not a Provincetown lounge act.  (Seriously, when I get my time machine, just before I go kill Hitler, I’m hitting the ’70s to give Freddy Mercury a high five.)

All of which is to say, go see Florence + the Machine.  She—or rather they—are awesome.  But don’t tell yourself you’re seeing Slint.  You aren’t, and that’s perfectly fine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jungle Giant

In general forest-dwelling giants seem to be nicer than their most other giant races.  (Probably a resource thing: forests have food and resources, whereas mountains have icy, craggy death.)  That doesn’t mean the neutral jungle giants are benevolent like wood giants; it just means they might allow you to run away when they threaten to kill you for trespassing.

For relatively simple monsters stat-wise, jungle giants are packed with evocative flavor touches: almost tree-like features (a reflection of the land…or hints of treant or fey influence?); the ability to wield bows in melee combat; spell storing, warding tattoos; and a matriarchal society (perhaps due to custom, religion, biology, curse, plague, you name it).  Plus anything involving runes is always good for an adventure hook…

A jungle giant warns trespassers against visiting a forbidden ruined city.  She sends leaf leshys to spy on them, and if they disobey they find themselves harried by druid-summoned animals and girallon ambushes.

A well-meaning but hapless scholar wishes to study the runic brands and tattoos of a jungle giant tribe.  The matriarch is quite understandably less than enthusiastic about her people being examined like butterflies.  She also wishes to preserve the secret reason for their matriarchal society: a stain of corruption that renders a percentage of their males into brutes (use cave giant statistics) or even violent psychopaths (ash giants) who must be driven underground.

Explorers searching for a lost jungle nation of elves succeed—sort of.  What they find are a nation of jungle giants attended by wild elf servants and laborers along with strange obsidian golems.  This horrifies the elves in the party (used to their own nation of oak-tree-and-living-crystal cities that dominates a subcontinent), and they are stunned to discover the wild elves approve of the arrangement.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 129

Quick one today.  Got Florence + the Machine tickets that need using.

Speaking of which, I never kvetched about Saturday, did I?  Was supposed to go to this; was even on guest list thanks to a radio connection.  On the day of, almost too exhausted to go, but I rallied because I’d never seen Flogging Molly live.  Get there and…

…The door people don’t have my name.  Sigh.  Which I should have expected.  (Pro Tip: Never trust guest list at an outdoor show.  Almost always lots of temporary staff and there’s never anyone higher up/with an Internet connection to appeal to.)  So of course suddenly I go from not even wanting to go to the show to having never wanted to see a show more in my life.  Predictable.  #patchlogic  (The worst part is that by coincidence a client of mine was involved in the show, so I probably could have gotten tickets weeks ago if I had a brain.)

Anyway, back to jungle giants.  I know all you Star Wars Expanded Universe fans read “jungle” and “matriarchal society” and started going, “They’re giant Witches of Dathomir!”  To which I reply: “Uh, sure?”

Finally, remember I’m looking for reader-generated random hooks!  Per yesterday’s post, roll three times on whatever monster/spell/terrain/plane/NPC/whatever tables you like.  Send the results to me (in the comments, here, or at my Gmail address) and I’ll do my best to work into a post!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Juju Zombie

I’m honestly kind of surprised the term “juju zombie” has survived.  Juju, after all, is part of an actual belief system—one that was imported to the U.S. via slavery.  And while we’ve sort of informally adopted similar notions like kismet and karma into our lives and language, we don’t name our monsters after them. 

(Then again, we regularly use angels and devils, but that gets into a whole debate about 1) borrowing from a dominant culture vs. appropriating from a less privileged/oppressed one and 2) are religions not fair game but myths and legends are and 3) where do you draw the line when it comes to folklore and 4) aaaaaugh!  Let’s stop there.  You get the idea.  This stuff is hard.  Sometimes you just have to acknowledge a vague feeling of icky and move on.  At least we can be glad our hobby never gave a race of evil elves black skin and ohcrapitneverends—)

That said, it’s easy to see why juju zombies themselves survived—they’re simply great monsters.  Players very quickly get used to what undead can do and the recipes for defeating each, so “surprise undead” are crucial tools for the mid- to high-level GM.  Juju zombies are one of the first of these surprise undead: looks like a minion, fights like an NPC.

Story-wise, that’s automatically interesting: What sworn oaths/animating impulse/fell magicks allow them to retain such life?  Their special abilities also suggest that they are specifically created by evil priests and necromancers as mage-killers (fire resistance 10; immunity to cold, electricity, and—tellingly—magic missile). 

Finally, let’s go back to that problematic source material.  Juju often suggests a physical fetish or a magical geis has been invoked, so juju zombies might have spirits preserved/trapped in certain objects or be punishments for broken contracts—if they would not serve in life, they will in death.  Meanwhile, the original Vodou zombies were supposedly called back as slave labor…or might not even have died in the first place, being instead the result of psychological trauma or illness.  In a fantasy world, perhaps juju zombies didn’t start as undead, but became such when someone forgot to feed them or buried them alive while they were still charmed or dominated

Mage duels in the magocracy of Harsk are ritual, highly regimented, rarely lethal affairs.  As this rarely satisfies the haughty Harsk spellslingers, mage killings are taken care of in a more direct fashion: zombies released into a rival’s tower to set off the magical defenses, with a juju zombie in the rear to make the kill.

Enchanters tend to hate necromancy, as their school is nearly useless against undead.  Quell Vartin, however, has a passion for collecting unique servants—a tengu battlemage, a female Briell dervish, a nagaji wrestler, and so on.  Rather than let death take her playthings, she seals them in glass coffins to be displayed as trophies and animated as juju zombies as needed.

The ninjas of the White Cicada Clan swear oaths that last beyond the grave.  Even after death, they serve the dojo as juju zombie guards.  The men are not the only undying sentinels, either—even the deathly white carp in the koi ponds are juju zombies (use giant gar as the base creature).

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I…totally did not mean to write an essay.  I totally don’t have time to be writing essays.  D’oh!  (And I have more on the way.)

But!  Enough of that now.  It’s time to talk about Reader-Generated Random Hooks!

Friday we start on the K monsters (which is actually a lousy place to start this experiment, but we shall boldly forge on anyway).  And I want to give you, the readers, a chance to help generate the adventure seeds.

So grab your Core Rulebook or Game Mastery Guide or favorite Pathfinder Adventure Path or whatever and start rolling on the random tables.  Give me three results for whatever tables you like—perhaps a monster, a magic item, and a planar location, or a natural disaster, an NPC trait, and a terrain type—whichever tables catch your eye or that you use most in your campaign.  Send me your three results (and let me know if they come from someplace obscure like a single Adventure Path issue if they’re not from the core books), and I’ll do my very best to put them in an upcoming post. 

Deal?  I’m excited.  Hope you are, too.  Submit your roll results to my Gmail account (dailybestiary at you know the rest) or use the Ask About Monsters link.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jubjub Bird

Another Lewis Carroll creation.  Another one of the Tane.  Another example of the “Deflect charges of silly with infusion of bad-ass” school of monster design.  If your creature is going to be half dodo, making they other half a dinosaur isn’t a bad idea.  As it’s a member of the Tane, fey adventure hooks are one way to go with the jubjub bird; I’ve tried prehistory and exobiology as well…

A sidhe lord (pronounced “shee,” treat as a male elf bard 14 with the fey creature template who only uses bronze weapons) known as “The Chalumeau,” after the reed instruments he crafts, holds an annual dinner party in a glade in his realm.  The entertainment of this dinner party tends to involve mushrooms with magical effects, tall tales featuring leprechaun thieves, and knife jugglers who sometimes strike participants.  The most notorious feature of this party is the guest of honor: a jubjub bird that storms into the glade, eats one of the guests, shrieks, and wanders off—much to the Chalumeau’s great amusement.

Time- and dimension-traveling adventurers land in a version of their world that never quite was, where terror birds reign supreme.  Moas, diatrymas, and axe beaks are common, but it is the jubjub bird the party most has to fear. The tribes of feral, cannibalistic tengu witches who worship these magical beasts as avatars of destruction don’t help either.

The jungle planet of Dionaea is legendary for its carnivorous plants and its jubjub bird-riding jungle giants.  But in order to raise a sunken city on their home world from the bottom of the ocean, adventurers must first travel to Dionaea and align lenses at three temples, sending a beam of magical force through space to call the cyclopean city to the surface.

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I have so many things to say.  And no time to say them in.  In the next few days, yes, things, say them I will, promise.

I will say thanks for your questions.  the-dawn-renewed lobbied for me linking my monsters to the d20pfsrd page.  I’ve gotten that comment before so I really should act on it.  Do people prefer the d20pfsrd or Paizo’s official Roleplaying Game Reference Documents?  Since I like to go official as possible my gut is to point to the latter, but I’m willing to hear other opinions.  Keep asking me stuff!

Also I may be soliciting some dice rolls from you all in the near future.  Keep watching this space.

And look, it’s Saturday's radio show! New Calexico, Passion Pit, Benjamin Gibbard, Raveonettes, Minus the Bear, Field Report, and Taylor Swift. (One of these things is not like the other.)  Might I be so bold as to suggest you download it?

(Music starts 90 seconds into the file. If the streaming feed skips, let it load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3 to your desktop, and enjoy in iTunes forever.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jotund Troll

Aw, yeah.  Now this is what I’m talking about.  You all know I love me some mythic Norse stuff, and it doesn’t get much more mythic than nine(!)-headed trolls.  When a party encounters a nine-headed troll, it is clear they are somewhere else—Jotunland, Faerie, the North Pole, it doesn’t matter.  Civilization is gone.  You are in the Land of Giants, and the next stranger you meet might be a god, a troll, a wolf the size of a hill, a linnorm, or worse.

Then again, as we discussed with centaurs, if you like a really cosmopolitan, monsters-are-people-too campaign, jotund trolls are a great way to keep players on their toes and hit home the wonder of your world.  PCs will be much less likely to start overturning tables in the pub when the bouncer gets nine attacks of opportunity a round…

Belgrub the Eater is a spiritual icon (deity is too strong a term) of the trolls, ogres, and hill giants of the Ironmaw Mountains.  When he hungers for metaphysical soulmeat, he blesses the tribes with the birth of jotund trolls.  Barely able to feed themselves in the best of seasons, the tribes inevitably form war parties to raid the soft “downlanders” in the valleys nearby, and the resulting bloodshed swells Belgrub’s demonic belly.

A party of explorers is deep into the mountains when a blizzard threatens.  Coming across a giant-sized, crude-but-comfortable home, they discover a jotund troll.  Sure that the eye of Wotan is on him, the “head” head offers them hospitality if they can solve a riddle.  That done, the party is safe from the storm…until nightfall.  Convinced Wotan is asleep, the other eight heads decide it is time for a meal, and hospitality be damned.

Nine Petes is (are?) the bouncer (brawler archetype; see Ultimate Combat) for the Hangman’s Lover, a bar in the blustery city of Newford whose high-vaulted ceilings allow him plenty of room to work.  Nine Petes tends to keep several particularly sturdy stools on hand, both because his heads can never pick just one seat and to use as clubs when the need arises.  Thankfully, he(/they) also only rarely swallows patrons whole anymore.  (There was an incident with a wayang he’d rather not discuss.)

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Wotan is, of course, another name for Odin. 

And note how nicely the brawler archetype’s No Escape rule meshes with Nine Petes’s All-Seeing Attacks

I have always wanted to run a low-to-medium magic Viking-inspired campaign, especially with players who could take law and oaths seriously, like my grad school friends.  (My current gaming friends are equally fun but much more roguish.) 

I was already into Norse mythology, thanks to Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology by Brian Branston and Giovanni Caselli (part of the World Mythology Series, which I cannot recommend highly enough), and then my ninth grade history teacher assigned us the Icelandic Njál’s Saga, which opened by eyes to the world of weregild, hospitality, and feuds.  If you can get past the first part, which reads like Viking stereo instructions, there is a campaign in there.

Speaking of which, did anyone out there ever read the 2e HR1 Viking Campaigns Sourcebook?  I hear it was good.  And Ken Rolston’s GAZ7 The Northern Reaches definitely brought the North alive for D&D fans.

Yesterday syringesin asked, “Any reason why you never post pictures of the monsters you profile?  Just curious.  Actually, I prefer your format as it is, without the pictures.” 

Honestly, I’d love to post pictures.  But I’m really committed to making this blog 100% original content.  And since I can’t draw and only rarely take photographs, what you see is what you get.  That said, if any of my readers out there are great artists and want to send fan art, I’ll eagerly post it and give you credit.

Trust me, I know being all-text limits this blog’s appeal for some people.  But there are enough great people curating and reblogging out there already.  So I just do my thing and hope the 120 or so of you out there who dig it keep digging it.  (You all, however, are encouraged to like and reblog me like a fiend.)

Got a question or comment?  Ask away!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I kind of shot my wa—er…spent my spinneret on the jorogumo on Monday.  But I’ll repeat: these seductresses fit in pretty much any campaign, either as themselves or with some slight cosmetic alterations.  Change their skin color and they work great as drow blessed by the Spider Queen; give them pointed ears and they can be unseelie fey or evil cousins of dryads; change their alignment to neutral or good (and do away with their grisly mating habits) and they can be priestesses of Anansi; etc., etc.

Of course, you can also have fun with jorogumo’s sexual proclivities (how nice to have an adventure where it’s the prince who needs rescuing, not the princess) or have her split the party (attempting to curse or murder the females and tengus while seducing the men).

A miller’s daughter kindly welcomes a party of sellswords to rest in the shade while she brings them drinks.  Unfortunately, the girl is really a jorogumo, the real miller and daughter are long dead, and the drinks are laced with potions of sleep.  In any case, the subterfuge does not last long anyway; when the party’s tengu guide returns from scouting ahead, the girl abandons all disguise and leaps to attack.  If overpowered, the jorogumo retreats to the spinning mill wheel, forcing the party to engage her atop the spinning structure if they wish to press the attack.

When an expected courier goes missing, scouts are sent fanning out through the valley to look for him.  Soon it is a race against time—first, to find the lad (now in the clutches of a jorogumo), and then to get him to a healer before his child hatches within his belly.

The drow of Embry are pacifists—a race of mystics and illusionists who dwell in the Crystalcairn Mountains.  Some whisper that the drow atone for some ancient crime, but the high elves will not speak of it and the grey only say, “Time forgives all.”  Then the drow start giving birth to a generation of aberrations and tieflings, their noblewomen spontaneously morph into jorogumos, and the moon above Embry bursts like a ruptured cocoon.  This signs are unmistakable: the drow Goddess of Spiders is awake.

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Hey, just a quick hello to all the new Tumblr readers out there—it’s been, like, 18 of you in the last week and a half!  Cheers, and I hope you keep enjoying.  If you want to really dig deep, this blog started here at Blogger with the aasimar.

As for my Blogger readers…well, there are typos in the last two days’ posts.  And they ain’t coming out for a while.  One of the reasons I switched to Tumblr was Blogger was incredibly hard to edit, especially if the original draft had come from Microsoft Word.  Weird formatting artifacts get in there and Will. Not. Come. Out.  (At least not without ruining every font size and line break in the process.)  For the past few months, things seemed to have improved…and then Tuesday it all went to heck again.  I had to redo all of Tuesday twice, and Wednesday I just threw up my hands.  So yeah, this blog is going to continue to be the neglected child for a while.

As for my regular readers in general, bear with me as we trundle through the Js and Ks.  I know a lot of you really dig the classic 1e and 2e AD&D monsters, but in this section of the alphabet we’re pretty heavily skewed toward Pathfinder Bestiary 2 and 3 beasties.  At least the kobolds are coming soon!

Finally, don’t forget you can always message me through the Ask About Monsters link on my Tumblr page or at Gmail (dailybestiary at you know the rest).  I read everything you send!