Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I love disease-themed villains and villainy.  First off, plague was a very real part of life in the Middle Ages, and even in fantasy communities there aren’t enough clerics to stem the tide.  Second of all, it’s more nuanced than being devoted to, say, slaughter or war, and more interesting then explicable deaths like drowning and starvation (though famine, with its larger social and political implications, is a more fertile concept). 

Most importantly, diseases involve (forgive the medical pun) complications.  There are epidemiological issues of vectors of transmission, rate of spread, speed of onset, and asymptomatic Typhoid Mary-type carriers.  Thus the plots of diseased themed villains are so much more complicated.  It’s not enough to blight the fields or start a war.  They have to poison the water supply…create a new virus…slay priests and healers…cultivate bacteria and mosquitoes like disgusting zookeepers…and so and so forth.  A disease-themed adventure can be a murder mystery, a ticking clock scenario, and political thriller all in one.

All of which make leukodaemons pretty sick villains.

(Okay, that pun was unforgiveable.)

Elrondil is a rare thing—a nation of half-elves, and one that has united human and elven customs in their love of tournaments and pageantry.  At an arcane archery competition, a hooded archer boasts that her arrows will find more marks than any other.  She speaks true.  Upon reaching the winners’ dais, a torrent of flies erupts from under her cloak, and she begins firing disease-laced arrows into the crowd.

Servants of the Plague Mother summon a trio of leukodaemons to assist in the spreading of a new plague.  But the disease is vastly more lethal than anticipated.  This causes a schism in the dark sect.  The more fanatic priests maintain that this must be Yrfidiel’s will and that she has blessed their efforts.  The more pragmatic clerics point out that their goddess blesses long-suffering carriers.  They suspect the leukodaemons have bolstered the plague for their own agendas, mocking their goddess.  Meanwhile, it rips through the capital city like wildfire.

Leukodaemons’ horse skulls are a badge of loyalty to the Horseman of Pestilence—and even the disloyal find it prudent to follow the fashion.  Those who don’t are the true iconoclasts of the race.  The stag-headed Cervimort finds his peers’ focus on humanoids ludicrous, focusing instead on infecting their herd animals and food supplies.  And the Huge, mammoth-headed Oorm is responsible for the demise of at least one giant subrace.  “Why chop down a sapling when you can fell a redwood?” is his motto.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 68

My Bestiary 2’s Table of Contents has the leucrotta and the leukodaemon in the wrong order.  First printing in da house!

Aside from the Tolkienian name, Elrondil takes a teaspoon of inspiration from Bruce Heard’s nation of Eusdria in Dragon Magazine #178.

More about Golarion’s leukodaemons and their pestilent lord Apollyon can be found in Todd Stewart’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse—a book so well written it put me into an existential funk.  You, of course, are made of sterner stuff, so go check it out.

Apparently my Internet at home is stuck in 1998—some articles and pictures, forget multimedia, no Blogger, cranky Tumblr.  I had to go back to work to post this.  This is how much I love you.  (Of course, back to work is the party district, which helps, especially tonight.  So happy Halloween!  Or, as Dan Savage put it…)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Evil badger-deer-hyena-monsters, leucrottas have so much potential.  Want to split the party or pick them off one by one in the dark?  Leucrotta.  Want to beef up gnoll combat?  Leucrotta.  Want a monster the PCs will think is a dumb beast, right up until it calls for reinforcements?  Leucrotta.  And my favorite: Want to scare the bejeezus out of players?  Leucrotta vomit or feces—“It…it’s got chunks of armor in it!”—full of bits of their latest henchman.

Most leucrottas stick to the wilderness, and so encounters are going to be opportunistic predation—the standard PC-on-watch-hears-a-strange-voice setup.  These adventure seeds, however, feature some more ambitious members of the species…

With their intelligence, strength, and powerful bites, leucrottas find it easy to take over gnoll tribes.  Warcaller has it easier than most.  The ambitious leucrotta has studied human tactics, and over time has earned levels as a cavalier (Order of the Cockatrice).  He now leads his gnoll tribe on raids of staggering speed and efficacy.

“The Lethal Leucrotta” reads the sign above Marquis Marcos’s Magnificent Mendicant Menagerie.  Of course it’s not—it’s a crocotta captured in the tribelands of Elba.  When the “Marquis” Marcos’s traveling show stops in a big city, he sometimes arranges for a ventriloquism spell to make the animal talk; in the sticks he doesn’t even bother.  At this latest stopover, the crocotta has attracted more than the usual amount of attention.  A leucrotta that haunts the outskirts of the caravan city has been secretly releasing the crocotta each night to help it hunt.  Meanwhile, a gnoll outcast disguised in the rags of a plague victim visited the menagerie earlier this week and now has his heart set on claiming the crocotta as his own.

The city of Onyxguard is more cosmopolitan than most, with dark folk and wayangs as common in the streets as half-orcs and gutter dwarves.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the half-elf Guildmaster Temm of the Thieves’ Guild is actually only a mouthpiece for the real guildmaster, Temm’s “pet” leucrotta.  It shouldn’t be a surprise—but to most of Razorjaw’s partners in crime (and future victims), it is.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 178

I like leucrottas.  They’re probably on nobody’s list of must-have monsters (waits to be corrected in the comments in 3…2…1…), but when they do show up in a Bestiary/Monster Manual I’m always like, “Oh good!”

Here’s more on them in folklore and in the world’s oldest role-playing game.

Crocottas were hinted at all the way back in the “Gnolls” chapter of Paizo’s Classic Monsters Revisited.

Monday, October 29, 2012


You may have noticed leprechauns in a number of my entries.  This isn’t an accident, and not just because I’m partial to the Fey monster type.  It’s that leprechauns are easily among the most accessible faeries as well. 

Back in 1e and 2e of the world’s oldest role-playing game, almost all the fey (quicklings aside) were relatively benign.  After the 3.0 Monster Manual clear-cut its way through their ranks—(much love to Skip Williams & co., but seriously, it was butchery)—the new fey introduced in subsequent books tended to be wild, malevolent spirits of nature—wicked tooth faeries that claimed their ivory booty by ripping the molars out right of your skull BWAHAHAHAHA!!!  And even now most fey tend to teeter-totter between these two extremes.

Not leprechauns.  They’re—as the gossip magazines put it—just like us.  They like gold…probably a little too much.  They like drink…enough that they have a whole subrace, the clurichauns, who are spirits of the brewery.  They like pranks and a good tale…and one is often the start of the other.  And rather than lurking exclusively in the deep woods, they’re quite suburban fey who like the finer things in life and are happy to sneak a pint at the local pub before scurrying back to the woods.

In other words, they’re not particularly good or evil, friendly or foreign.  Frankly, they’re little d--ks…just like us.

A leprechaun does, in fact, have a pot of gold hidden at the end of the rainbow—the mists over the Selkie River rapids cause a rainbow to manifest on most sunny days, and Killian Silvertongue has hidden his stash in a cave on the far shore.  Unfortunately, a minotaur has claimed both the cave and the gold.  Killian needs to convince a party of adventurers to help him recover his treasure without costing himself one shiny yellow piece.

Female leprechauns are rarely seen and are treasured by their kin.  When Róisín (ROSH-een) O’Dell falls in love with the halfling river pirate Finbar Half-Ear, it’s a scandal.  Half-Ear gets a party of adventurers to help her elope, and from there it’s a race back to his boat, where a cleric stands ready to marry them.  But even staying on the handkerchief-marked path is no simple matter when up against a family capable of casting fabricate and major creation, not to mention any number of illusions.

Tricksters they may be, but leprechauns love their homeland.  When a pair of dandasuka rakshasas begins doing their bloody work in the ports of Mhaonaigh, the mayor hopes to enlist the devious and magical aid of the leprechaun clan that hides in the nearby hills.  The young adventurers he sends must first contact a leprechaun (saving the one who lives under Cobbler Lane from thugs from the catfolk thieves’ guild is a good start), then convince him to lead them under the earth, where (while reduced), they will have to fight mite pests, harvest mushrooms from the back of a giant caterpillar, and beat the leprechaun chief at darts or a shillelagh duel.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 177

Hurricane Sandy.  It’s on 4 realz, yo.

But what about the leopard?  Did that.

In Golarion, gnomes and leprechauns might be closely related, with the leprechauns very studiously avoiding whatever sin cost gnomes their fey natures.

Finally, I’ve mentioned before the amazing—seriously, get yourself a copy—PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk by John Nephew, which did a good job of integrating Greek and fantasy woodland beings with Elizabethan faeries.  One of the neat elements from folklore he incorporated was that leprechauns, like most faeries, could turn invisible at will…but only if they weren’t being watched.  As long as an enemy had line of sight on a leprechaun, it was stuck visible…but if it could duck around the corner or slip behind a thistle, poof.  I think that’s the perfect kind of detail to aid to Pathfinder’s incarnation—it makes them have to be that much more talkative, conniving, and tricky until they can find a reason to—hey, look behind you! *poof*

Friday, October 26, 2012


Lion-headed agathions (guardinals to you 3.5 fans).  So…a race of Aslans, basically.

As with most neutral good creatures, PCs are more likely to ally with a leonal than fight one—you really have to work to get on a leonal’s bad side.  (But I’m sure your players are up to it…)

After years of fighting evil on distant planar outposts, a leonal was sent as a messenger to the fabled land of pyramids, Mekhtar.  However, she was unaware of the reverence the nation’s people hold for their animal-headed deities.  Her celestial message was ignored as she was hailed as a goddess by all who meet her—including the pharaoh, who installed her as a princess in her own right ruling over the distant southern third of his kingdom.  Now she has grown used to both the mantle of power and the luxury that comes with it, and it may take more than persuasion to return her to Elysium.

Years of fighting vrocks and other minions of Pazuzu has made a leonal suspicious of avian creatures.  When a garuda settles in its territory under the cover of alter self, the leonal assumes the worst despite the creature’s apparent good intentions.

Summoned to a dragonmoot to give an account of themselves after having slain an evil (but prominent and well-connected) dragon, a group of adventures is shocked to find that their advocate is not another dragon at all, but a young Draconic-speaking leonal.  Another older leonal acts as the moot’s chairman and judge.  Even stranger, the judge does not seem well disposed toward the adventurers, and the dragons most pleased with their actions seem to be the chromatics.  Clearly, there is more to their last adventure than they realized.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 20

Apparently, Mekhtar is my go-to place for all things Egypt.

Speaking of Aslan, if you liked the Narnia books as a child, I highly recommend you do not reread them.  Many books suffer from reëxamination with adult eyes, but the Narnia books positively wilt.

Finally, bear with me if I’m slow to reply to mail or take some days off in the next two weeks.  Between the looming Frankenstorm, a definite trip to New England, and a possible trip to Canada, my Internet access and time are question marks at the moment.  (And if I am tardy posting, there’s always the archive…)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leng Spider

Leng is originally a Lovecraft creation (my standard disclaimer about my lack of familiarity with the Mythos goes here.  The little we know about Pathfinder’s Leng is tucked away in Pathfinder #6: Spires of Xin-Shalast (courtesy of Greg A. Vaughan), the Bestiary 2, and The Great Beyond (though it appears we might learn more as the Shattered Star Adventure Path progresses).  But we have glimpses of an arid, arctic plateau that exists half in the realm of dreams and madness, where the humanoid denizens of Leng and Leng spiders eternally war. 

All well and good.  But what if you want to go beyond the Leng spiders of legend?  There’s always a reason for scary CR 14 spider-monsters, especially ones that spin their own illusions and weapons…

The mages of the Collegium have long dismissed as sophistry any theories linking phase spiders and the more mysterious spiders of Leng.  But when blink dog sages the world over begin to have nightmares about asymmetrical spiders from another world, these same mages grow concerned—for if the Leng spiders learn the phase spiders’ ability to ethereal jaunt, the world could be doomed.  Unraveling the mystery will find the adventurers facing off against blink dog apostates, night hags of the Ethereal, and perhaps even the norns…not to mention the denizens and spiders of Leng itself.

Arachnids used to be part of the portfolio of an ancient goddess of crafts know known only as the Weaver.  When she was slain by a drow goddess and her urdefhan champions, the trauma of her death throes turned the Weavers’ high priestesses into the first maker spiders.  Instead of spinning sacred patterns, wise tales, and the knowledge that women share as they work the shuttles, the subterranean maker spiders craft weapons, illusions, and grisly deaths in their eternal war against the drow and the urdefhans.

The City of Sleepers is an impossibly tall city of terraces and spires that floats at the border of Air and Dreams.  Djinn, leprechauns, sylphs, sirens, brass dragons, and even relatively benevolent lamias and caulborn relax and dream in lush gardens and orchards tended by animate dreams.  No one (but mortal visitors) tends to notice when dreams go missing…or asks about the spider-webbed cocoons hidden in the City’s many forbidden spires.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 176

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Named after the Roman shades of dead, lemures are the protoplasmic building blocks of devilkind.  As such they demonstrate the peril—and potential—of evil.  If villains (or characters) are lawful evil in life, existence as a lemure is what awaits them once eons of torture have expiated their sins and stripped the memories from their souls.  And even pit fiends fear failing in their duties and being reduced to this primordial status.  On the other hand, Hell is the multiverse’s ultimate meritocracy—and once one is a lemure, there is nowhere to go but up…

On a more practical level, lemures’ low CR and low summoning cost make them an easy way to get PCs fighting the powers and politics of Hell as early as first level.

Not everyone seeks out adventure; sometimes it finds you.  A freak alignment of the planes carries the village square to the first layer of Hell for a horrific ten minutes.  The village youths must join the militia in warding off a mob of lemurs.  After the battle, their innocence lost, the youths begin their career as adventurers to root out what happened—and why.

In the devil-worshiping kingdom of Dis Proxima, lemure duels and ichorsports are a popular entertainment for the well heeled.  These acts of summoning of course raise the spellcasters’ risks of one day becoming creatures themselves…but the proud Proximans insist that they are the masters of Hell, in this life and the next, and need not fear such a fate.

An extortion racket has a stranglehold on the Wharf District.  A letter borne by a dead man (reanimated as a zombie and sent directly to the Wharf Watch) fingers a novice group of inquisitors and detectives.  They must clear their names before the Watch finds them, as well as handle the hired thugs, sewer amoebas, and familiar-kidnapping swamp goblins the investigation throws their way.  Eventually, they uncover the mastermind of the plot—a crime boss whose greed morphs him into a lemure before their very eyes.

Pathfinder Bestiary 79

Speaking of devils, just as this post was going to press reader/blogger Will/filbypott went and did something awesome.  Go see!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Legion Archon

With metal wings and flaming weapons, legion archons are the rank and file of the various Heavens’ armies.  When PCs encounter these celestials, it’s a good bet they’ve wandered too close to the front lines of one spiritual war or another.

Adventurers find themselves stranded on the same layer of the Abyss as a lost legion archon recently separated from his squad.  This particular layer is a place of illusion and deception, and the archon sees them as demons until the veil is pierced.

The emperor has grown so powerful even the forces of Heaven send envoys to his court.  When an assassination attempt occurs right in front of them, the unarmed black-skinned archons suddenly manifest flaming greatswords and metal wings.  Agroup of adventurers is falsely accused by the aasimar guards, and detect evil cannot detect guilt.  Will the archons believe the adventurers’ protestations of innocence—and possibly even recruit their aid—or deliver fiery judgment?

A lillend’s song holds the key to opening a magical door.  But to earn this boon from her, an adventuring party must aid her bralani kin as they fight bearded devils.  This puts them on the wrong side of a squad of legion archons.  The lawful outsiders reluctantly share custody of a fortress overlooking a titan’s grave, and the bearded devils’ zebub handler demands the archons do something about the azata/mortal incursion.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 19

Still sick.  But went to work.  Which is the worst kind of sick, really.

What’s that?  What about the leech swarm?  I give you soldiers from Heaven, and you ask about leech swarms?!? 

Er, I mean, we did those already.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Leaf Leshy

The most martial of leshys—by inclination, if not by CR—leaf leshys are most likely to encounter PCs who stumble into their orchards…or who interrupt their war games.

The Whitehart Forest has large concentrations of leaf leshys and atomies, and the various bands and groves drill and duel almost daily, delighting in elaborate war games that span vast acres.  They assume any interlopers are part of the exercise and use nonlethal methods to drive them away or take them down…but if responded to with real violence, they will offer it in turn.  The combination of deafening seedpods followed by invisible atomie sneak attacks is particularly effective.

After seeing adventurers going about their morning exercises, a group of orange grove leaf leshys approaches and begin pantomiming and gabbling to them in Druidic and Sylvan.  If the adventurers (whether through speech or signs) agree to teach them a new fighting style (any martial feat besides Weapon Finesse), they will offer their thanks with a necklace of opals—which, should they attempt to sell it, offers a lie to the local baron’s tale that his foster daughter is away studying at a monastery.

A psychotic leaf leshy’s “greatsword” is actually an intelligent +1 wounding dagger that craves at least 1 hp of blood every day.  Incensed at being owned by a bloodless plant, the dagger drives the leshy to attack any humanoid it sees in the hopes of finding a victim or a better owner.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 179

Let a sick day keep me from blogging?  Not on your life!  (Translation: The drugs are the only things keeping me upright…)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lantern Archon

Supposedly it’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.  But DR-ignoring 1d6 damage light rays work against the darkness, too.

Lantern archons are the newbies of the lawful good planes (typically known as Heaven or the Heavens)—freshly promoted good souls.  They mostly act as scouts and messengers, but with their gestalt ability they are also living symbols of the power that can come from good people working together.  On warning, though: Despite being lanterns, at Int 6 they’re not that bright.  *rimshot*

When Priambus Ironbrand died in a swamp, he was carrying a family heirloom—a sword of legendary power whose abilities he had just begun to unlock.  Now a lantern archon named Primus with only dim memories of its previous life, the young paladin’s soul has nevertheless been sent back to ensure the sword finds its way into helpful hands.  Unfortunately, Primus is not the only glowing ball in the vicinity—the swamp is infested with will-o-wisps—so it is having difficulty convincing others of its good intentions.

All the lanterns in an abandoned mansion, once the home of a vampire death cleric, are actually lantern archons bound in some kind of unhallow effect.  Driven mad by their imprisonment, if freed each archon will spend several (1d6+1) rounds attacking randomly until it is calmed or driven off.  If all are released at once, they form two gestalt whirlwind entities that attack with even greater ferocity.

In its zeal to help battle the forces of darkness, a lantern archon attaches itself to an adventuring party whose cleric shares its patron deity.  But the archon has little notion of concerns like stealth, failing to shield its light while scouting ahead, calling out sinners with truespeech, and otherwise making a nuisance of itself.  The surest way to get rid of it without angering the Heavenly Hosts is to find a good cause or site for the archon to protect.

Pathfinder Bestiary 20

Mailbag!  Will has some tweaks to the augnagar and aurumvorax; see his notes in the comments.  (That link may not work for Safari users, because Blogger sucks and I shouldn't have tried to fix it.  #thisiswhywecan’thavenicethings)  Both syringesin and therealkendrickdane had things to say about the kyton here.  And therealkendrickdane also caught the prelapsarian vibe of my lammasu post, writing, “Eden, much?”

Did I miss anyone/thing?  Write me!

Speaking of the kyton: Is it time I finally see the Hellraiser franchise?  I’m not a horror fan at all except for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror short fiction series, but I’m at the point where I wonder if I’m missing out on canon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


The lammasu is another golden opportunity for the creative GM…because it is almost a complete tabula rasa.  Aside from the fact that lammasus are good and verge on arrogant, they’ve basically gone (almost) undefined since 1975.  This is likely because good creatures almost always get less screen time, and most of us don’t know all that much about Mesopotamian beasties in the first place.  (Quick, aside from body type, name a single difference between lammasus and shedus.  I’ll wait.  How about lammasus and androsphinxes, once riddles and sex are taken out of the equation?  No, no, take your time…)

So what will your lammasus be like?  Paternal?  Patronizing?  Arrogant?  Do they attempt to lead the charge of good or nudge from the rear?  (The standard lammasu is definitely a buffer and healer.)  Do they work invisibly or out in the open?  Do they wait to be asked advice or direct other races like chess masters placing pawns?  Shedus supposedly are guardians of gateways, doors, and other thresholds (hence fighting undead, outsiders, and plagues, which all may be seen as invaders of one kind or another)…so maybe lammasus are protectors of those on the road (travelers and caravans, for instance), or ward against slavers or evil humanoids that fall outside the shedus’ purview.  And what about their resemblance to lamias—what if lammasus are the males of the species, who never suffered their fallen mates’ degradation?

Lammasus can also be great mentors for sorcerers, oracles, and other characters whose magical powers don’t come specifically from books or a deity.  In Dragon #280, Monte Cook served up a prestige class known as the eldritch master, who mentored with a creature such as a hag, lammasu, lich, slaad, or titan to learn extra spells and metamagic feats and other abilities at the cost of some spell levels.  PC spellcasters in your campaign might need to consult a lammasu to learn a rare feat, or to unlock certain powerful kinds of magic (3rd level spells, for instance, or the ability to summon outsiders).  This knowledge might come with a price—side quest!—or just getting to the lammasu’s remote lair might be the adventure.

Obviously, all monsters are yours to define, but with lammasus the possibilities are even more wide open that usual.  Have fun!

Finally, nitpickers beware: Note that in the Bonus Bestiary lammasus are listed as casting spells as clerics, in the Bestiary 3 as oracles. 

The following hooks offer some excuses to set the otherwise lawful good lammasus at odds with your PCs:

Scarlet Wing is a truly regal, leonine lammasu determined to drive the orcs out of the Kampar Wastes.  A lifetime of command has made him rusty at the art of diplomacy, however.  When the shedu Aqalmand refuses to spare any of horned lizardfolk and earth elementals he uses to guard the planar gate in the ruined City of the Black Moon, claiming they are needed there, Scarlet Wing, outraged, vows to impress them by force if necessary.

Whatever the truth that lammasus and lamias were once one, the lammasu Pamalberak believes it.  What was an intriguing theory decades ago has blossomed into an obsession.  He now seeks out isolated lamias to “redeem”…and while imprisonment is more merciful than killing them—and prevents them from harming innocents—his experimental efforts at conversion are beginning to cross the line into torture.  His desert brownie servants are becoming alarmed, but respect the magical beast too much to act openly.

After years of training isolated wisdom-seekers in the wastes, the lammasu Ishme has recently inspired a small order of knights.  The knights work in pairs, one paladin, fighter, or cavalier and one oracle or cleric, mutually supporting each other with arms and spells.  They can be recognized by the gauze they tie around their eyes as a symbol of Ishme’s cataract-blurred vision (and the visual impairments many of the order’s oracles suffer).  Recently though, the knights have gotten embroiled in the war between Tarsus and the freedom fighters of Pax Quinn, and in aiding her knights Ishme may find himself fighting those he might otherwise have called “Friend.”

Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary 13 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 175

Okay, I should give Belinda G. Ashley’s “The Ecology of the Lammasu” from Dragon Magazine #224 some props—she divides lammasu prides into castes like the Defenders, the Enlightened, the Healers, and the Pride Lords.  She also suggests that they are attended by brownies, which personally I think is a fun way to mix English and Mesopotamian monsters, so I used it above.

Speaking of which:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lamia Matriarch

Now we’re getting somewhere!  To me, lamia matriarchs (lamia nobles in the world’s oldest role-playing game) are the real lamias.  Unlike their bestial lion-bodied sisters, the sinuous and serpentine lamia matriarchs are seductive enough even without illusions and charms to veil them…though they’re happy to change shape when it suits them.  They naturally lord over most other lamias and lamia-kin (more on them below).  And they are equally tied to the sins of gluttony, lust, and wrath (with plenty of envy, pride, greed, and sloth likely thrown in to boot).

But what’s most interesting is the lamia matriarchs’ possible role as cult leaders for other lamias and humanoid victims.  Obviously, they make ideal evil priestesses or demon-worshippers—a little Wisdom drain, beauty, and skill with scimitars goes a long way toward recruiting worshippers.  And turning to evil gods or fiends is nothing new for a cursed race. 

On the other hand, why do lamia matriarchs need the gods at all?  In most Pathfinder/D&D settings, healing magic is the province of divine casters…but lamias can cast such spells as arcane magic.  They can spit in the gods’ eyes without fear of repercussions—after all, how much more damned can they get?  In worlds where the gods are very present, real forces, this is staggeringly powerful.  Lamia matriarchs are the ultimate symbols of corruption and freedom at once—creatures who can turn their backs on heavenly consequences and wallow in any desire or appetite that strikes them.

Temple attendance in Newford shrinks as believers begin to flock to a formerly ruined site now rechristened the Fanum of the Possible Heart.  Dazed, slightly Wisdom-drained participants speak of moving sermons and philosophical lectures; some also hint at rich feasts, subterranean fighting rings, and libidinous rites.  The leader of the Possible Heart is a lamia matriarch, collecting blackmail material (and more than a few slaves and meals) from Newford citizens of every walk of life.

Nearly immortal thanks to long hibernation and careful use of alchemical mutagens, the Sapphire Scale still feels the loss of the gods like an aching wound. She uses regular castings of dream to influence and corrupt clerics and other divine servants in her domain.  The men she lures to mate with and devour.  The women she instructs in dark rites meant to open portals to the Outer Planes and barter favors from the night hags—all in pursuit of some rapidly approaching end.

The Serpent Coast is known in rumor to be infiltrated by—or even to openly embrace—ophidian monsters of all stripes.  Serpentfolk lurk beneath Mintar, spinning a variety of plots.  Nagas secretly rule San Markay and openly run See Karach.  Even the fire worshippers of See Dukai are visited not by otherworldy elementals or efreet, but by salamanders.  And the gem of the Coast, Goan, is clutched in the grip of Queen Ampolyta, a lamia matriarch of surpassing sorcerous power.  Her versatile combination of blasting evocations, healing spells, and useful abjurations and conjurations have kept her person safe.  Meanwhile, the fact that her reign, while self-serving and evil, is otherwise noticeably less corrupt than Goan’s previous governments has made her surprisingly popular.  However, she still condones slavery, blood sports, orgies with coerced and charmed prisoners…and feasts that combine all of the above.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 175

We first mentioned naga-ruled San Markay here.

So like I said yesterday, I didn’t do lamias enough justice last night.  But then again, I didn’t have to; it’s been done already.

Back when Pathfinder was just Pathfinder, a magazine on its way to becoming a game, one of the signs of how awesome it was was the attention it gave to lamias—or the lamyros race, as Golariopedia reminded me today.  Just as had already been done with goblins, here was a plain old 3.5 Monster Manual monster—as old as the game itself—suddenly revitalized, with its own myths, origin story, subraces, demon-goddess patron, and ties to the Runelords.  The Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path showed how every monster deserved a second look…and it’s half the reason this tiny little site exists.

For even more Pathfinder lamyros, look for the kuchrima, hungerer, and harridan in those early issues; Wikipedia can point you to some more beasts from D&D’s various editions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Given the late hour (nearly 11 PM), I’m not likely to do lamias justice by this post’s midnight deadline.  Nevertheless, I’m a huge fan.  Note that Wikipedia mostly sticks to the serpentine version of the lamia, as did “basic” D&D (called the lamara in the Creature Catalogue); most editions of (A)D&D/3.0/3.5 and Pathfinder call those lamia nobles or matriarchs.  Why the factory-standard lamia model comes with a lion’s chassis I don’t know, but they’re still quite capable opponents.

Lamias will always be after fresh charmed victims—especially male PCs—for sport, breeding, and meals.  To a lamia, they’re all the same thing.  Typically, she will use disguise self, charm person, major image, and suggestion to weave a web of fabrications around her victims—and the more members a cult has, the more elaborate the fantasies they create can be.  Once the Wisdom drain sets in, it’s only a matter of time before the hapless victims are in thrall, then in bed, then in bellies.

Malicen styles herself “the Queen Mother of Monsters” and in her lair (an isolated ruin of an oracle whose fumes once inspired sibyls) she has gathered around her a number of half-woman/half-beast creatures, including a clutch of harpies, an elderly and infirm sphinx, and an exiled centaur barbarian who spends most of her time blind drunk.  They prey on the few travelers and small caravans that linger too near.  Malicen is cautious of better-armed wagon trains, not wanting to bite off more than she can chew.  She is also secretly terrified a lamia matriarch will come along and take possession of the little she has built.

The enchanter Blaze Thunderstroke considers himself quite a lady’s man—and he is, which is how has swindled so many rich women out of their fortunes.  The surest sign of his arrogance is that he has recently taken not just one, but two lamias on as his apprentices.  They will defend him to the death, but only because each lamia is determined to be the one who devours him.  Blaze doesn’t realize it, but only their mutual jealousy and inability to comprehend the last half of his spellbook has kept him alive so far.

Lamias dwell in the ruined places of the world—perhaps for the solitude, perhaps to wallow in the schadenfreude of others’ misfortune…and perhaps as a vestige of the curse that created them.  Recently, travelers have reported lamias actively seeking out new archeological sites, even going so far as to seduce male captives for digging rather than mating.  Investigating, an adventuring party discovers the rumors are true.  At one site, they find lamias trading with salamanders for weapons and rare starmetals.  There and at another site, they also uncover evidence of lamias partnering with the dreaded seugathi.   But what aim could be so dire as to unite the cursed beast-women and the Old One-worshipping worms?

Pathfinder Bestiary 186

Welcome to the letter L!

I’ve mentioned Spike Y. Jones’s Dragon Magazine “The Ecology of…” articles before; issue #192 finds his bard Brendan Farwanderer relating “The Ecology (Love Life) of the Lamia.  Look for it!

More lamias tomorrow…which is practically in five minutes.  Oops.

Monday, October 15, 2012


We’ve already covered eremite and interlocutor kytons (and we’ll tackle augurs when we swing back around the alphabet).  Which leaves the evangelist kytons—the only kytons most mortals ever encounter.

In most published adventures I’ve seen, kytons seem to be summoned obstacles or spontaneously attracted to sites of torture—both very appropriate roles.  But now that the Bestiary 3 has revealed more of their society, I’d be interested to see their bailiwick of evangelism played up…

Derro abductions are on the rise, drawing a party of adventurers below the earth.  Instead of going into the Deep Realms, however, they find themselves in a pocket of the Plane of Shadow, beset by cloakers and shadow-corrupted pixies.  Eventually they discover a kyton has taken over leadership of the derro clan, and her insatiable demand for test subjects spurred their reckless rate of kidnappings.

There is a religious revival going on in the county of Nestor.  White-ruffed Traditionalists and Purifiers bedecked in torn frock coats are common sights, and even snake handling and self-flagellation has come back into vogue.  In such an environment, Brother Bertrem’s Church of the Unchained Spirit raises few eyebrows.  In the tent chapel, the kyton “Bertrem” and his human and tiefling sorcerer assistants alternately charm and terrify parishioners into following their Gospel of Pain.  Speaking as his victims’ dead loved ones, the kyton offers a choice between salvation and absolution that is compelling indeed.

Fiend worship was the order of the day in the Grand Duchy of Geryonna for almost 300 years; diabolism was the state religion, and even the dissidents were demon worshippers.  When the paladin-led armies of the Hand of Order conquered Geryonna, they decreed, “No devil, demon, nor daemon shall be venerated on pain of death.”  But old habits die hard, and the law said nothing about kytons.  In the past two decades, it has become a fashion among the noble families to summon an evangelist kyton to serve as the family’s confessor, spiritual guide, and link to the Beyond.  Worse yet, the paladins can do nothing to stop them—the nobles have broken no laws, and their lawful neutral patron Tollivar, Lord of Order, apparently does not frown upon kytons.  (In fact, it is rumored by some schismatics that, in his stern aspect as the Gaoler’s Friend, the deity keeps a select few kytons in his service.)

Pathfinder Bestiary 185

Friday, October 12, 2012


While epic duels against fire, water, and void yai may be the battles players dream of, they’re far more likely to face the oni known as kuwa.  Evil spirits who take human form, they are the slothful guildmasters, greedy bürgermeisters, corrupt deputies, and lascivious pimps who skim off the top and wallow in their greedy, vile appetites…until the PCs find them out.  (Of course, with abilities like darkness, deep slumber, fly, and invisibility at their disposal, unmasking a kuwa and catching one are quite different chores.)

A famous bathhouse built on the corner of a graveyard begins facing nightly assaults from undead.  The owner, an influential citizen (and rumored pimp) hires mercenaries to drive off the undead.  Investigation reveals the bathhouse owner is in fact the direct cause of the attacks—he is a kuwa oni, and the dead are rising in protest at sharing their sacred ground with the unclean spirit.

At the instigation of the baron’s tax collector, a corrupt sheriff institutes an “ear bounty,” paying good platinum for the pointed left ears of any elf, halfling, or gnome in the baron’s domain.  The reason for the bounty is a pragmatic one: the tax collector is a kuwa, and he fears the more sensitive and sharp-eyed demihumans will ferret out his real identity.

Investigating the disappearance of prominent citizens, a party of adventurers chases several red herrings, including an attic whisperer (who, while loathsome, only targets children, not adults), sewer crocodiles, and the Beggar Queen of the Fetchling Quarter (a matronly albino woman who blesses or curses them based on how they’ve treated her “subjects”).  But the real culprit is a kuwa who has turned the missing people into soulbound doll sentries and slaves.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 208

Thought I forgot, didn’t ya?  ;-)  Sorry for the late entry; I had to make a pilgrimage to the Dirt Church.  While I may not be one of those who traffics in “sport” (I know, indie rock DJ who runs a Pathfinder blog; you’re shocked, right?), even I recognize the importance of certain Big Games™.

Speaking of which, I have had dealings with the Enemy, albeit distantly.  The Dark One, their Sauron, who built them up—he supposedly went to my college, back in the day.  He kindly donated a PSA to our radio station.  It was amusing.  I dutifully played it.

One of their warriors—nay, their generals—too, I met with.  We worked briefly on a project together, back when he lent his sword to another team, one of the Southron battalions.  And while he would not know me from Treebeard, his number is still in my phone, and though I have never dialed it again I refuse to delete it.

That said, Yankees suck (especially tonight).

Thursday, October 11, 2012


A relatively new monster (born in 2000 in the D&D 3.0 Monster Manual), the krenshar has a lot going for it.  1) It’s plausible and fantastic at the same time, combining the surprise factor of our own world’s frilled lizards and Io moths with a Warhammer-esque flair for the osseous.  2) It adds to the always-shallow pool of low-CR monsters to throw at new parties.   And 3) it’s just plain cool.  (Let’s do the math: Skull + panther = awesome.  Duh.)  All in all, the krenshar is a great magical beast that’s way easier to rationalize than most.  (I’m looking at you, owlbear.)

Because they subsist on both fresh prey and carrion, krenshars are highly flexible predators.  After lizardfolk burst the dam at Anchor Falls, krenshar are among the first animals to move into the flood-ravaged city of St. Ishen downriver.  Taking up lairs in the second floors of ruined houses, they feast on water-bloated corpses when they must, and refugees and holdouts when they can.

The terrifying cannibal halflings of the Flayed Plains ride krenshars as mounts.  They practice all manner of piercings, ritual scarring, and mortifications to more closely resemble their skeletal-faced hunting cats.

The braves of the Karawak tribes must be just that: brave.  To be considered an adult, the tribe’s young men and women must hear a krenshar’s shriek and not quail in fear.  The Karawaks put visitors through the same test.  Unfortunately, a kech hunting band interrupts the orientation, and the visitors must face both the hunger of the wild skull-panthers and the poison arrows and elemental water magicks of the keches.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 174

How to Mess With Your GM: A Guide in One Act

Player: Can my ranger have a krenshar animal companion?

GM: He’s a beast master, right?  I don’t see why not.

Player: Can the krenshar have green fur and yellow stripes?

GM: For camouflage?  I like it.

Player: And red armor?

GM: Sure.  You’ll have to pay for exotic barding and add…um, we’ll say 5% to the cost.

Player: Awesome.  His name is Cringer the Krenshar.

GM: …I hate you.

I love evil halflings.  Monte Cook, if you one day ever read this, I dedicate the above pseudo-jerren to you.

I must also add that while I typically love Pathfinder art, the 3.0 Monster Manual krenshar takes the cake.

Meanwhile, over on Tumblr therealkendrickdane had this to say about yesterday’s kraken post:

Monsters like the Kraken are hard to get onstage; for a GM obsessed with getting his villains stage time and character development, they are tough. They’re the kind of monster that make you want to whip out the Villain-in-someone-else’s-body trick just so you can engage the PC’s in conversation. Of course, as you note, the Kraken has apparently gone from animal-intelligence tentacle beast to Lovecraftian horror of cosmic genius since I played D&D regularly. So it isn’t like this would be HARD for him, y’know?

Since I know therealkendrickdane personally, I cannot resist pointing out that you can tell a Vampire GM from his 1) love of conversational baddies, and 2) his Teutonic approach to capitalization.  Machen Sie the important nouns großer!”