Friday, November 30, 2012


Marai are lesser rakshasas who have a little something extra up their sleeves—specifically rainbow-colored, energy bolt-hurling serpent limbs.  Secretive students of esoteric magicks, they are likely to be spell-trap setters and hit-and-run ambushers, doing everything they can to keep from fighting face to face.  In fact, when met in straight-up combat, a marai might just flee after a single flurry of energy bolts—prey that can fight back aren’t any fun for the duplicitous rakshasa, and it would be a shame to squander this incarnation on mortal foes destined to die anyway…

A maker of clockwork constructs has gone missing.  A marai has captured him, forcing him to craft animate clockwork limbs that the marai can wear.  Unfortunately his exploits have kept him too long away from the court of his rakshasa master, who comes looking for the marai at the exact same moment as the clockwork maker’s rescuers.

Adventurers fighting serpentfolk discover the snake-men have an unusual ally—a particularly serpentine marai who has been living among them, claiming to be a serpentfolk sorcerer blessed in the egg with magical might.  (While initially suspicious, the snake-men have since been convinced by the marai’s spell-spitting limbs and knowledge of Undercommon.)  The rakshasa Viper actually seeks to enter and study the demiplane that the serpentfolk guard—he is fascinated with extradimensional spaces, and the traps in his quarters include a portable hole and two giant bags of devouring.

The Sunrise Seat is a carving-bedecked temple so large it is practically a ziggurat, with new rooms being discovered all the time.  (The temple fell into disuse during an orc invasion, then mudslides covered one quarter of the complex.)  The marai Sudeep Ranj spends every night in the temple, creeping in and out under a cloak of invisibility in order to study the secrets the loremasters and mystic theurges have unearthed that day.  But the temple has also attracted the attention of an asura, a stealthy adhukait named Katari and Zoonha, who wants to see it resealed.  Now the god-mocking rakshasa and the god-loathing asura set traps and ambushes to drive the other out, with the poor bewildered scholars caught in the middle.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 228

Advanced marai viper colors: mauve, puce, coral, taupe—y’know, I’m going to need some Pantone color chips for this…

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Lion mane and body!  Bat wings!  Quill-throwing tail!  Humanoid face!  Iron jaws!  Who doesn’t love the manticore?

But!  How to make it interesting? Or even iiiiinteresting?

For me, the hooks are in the Intelligence and the alignment.  At Int 7 and Wis 12, the manticore can certainly speak Common and hold its own tactically with at least the average commoner or low-level NPC warrior.  So is the manticore attacking your characters a hungry beast?  Eager for tribute (especially iron to gnaw on, to help it build up its jaws and spikes)?  Working for a lamia or some dark lord?  A mount for a cavalier or antipaladin?  Or even just lonely and looking for some conversation and theater (with or without the “dinner” prefix)?

And what’s to say a manticore couldn’t be a citizen in a cosmopolitan or high-magic campaign?  As lawful evil monsters, they’re as likely as an archon, axiomite, or blue dragon to show up on a lawful neutral plane, and the local inevitable enforcers might not take too kindly to them being slain.

Nine times out of 10, of course, manticores are going to be just brutes.  But time number 10 will be interesting for your players…

A manticore fires its spikes at adventurers but does not attack—and in fact calls out a greeting.  Having devoured a number of knights (their shields and pennants line the walls of its lair), the creature has become fascinated with heraldry.  It wants the party to seek out a herald to immortalize it an escutcheon.  Finding one willing to cater to a manticore will be tricky, and the magical beast will likely demand they leave a party member behind as collateral.

The plateau of Gorm is the entrance to a lost world that is somewhat more mythic in scope.  The first challenge is surmounting the escarpment, which is patrolled by hungry dire (advanced) manticores.  While they don’t ask riddles as a sphinx might, they do ask pointed, seemingly nonsensical questions even as they attack, as if entranced or guided by an intelligence outside their own.

Merrisart and Grimmane are a lamia and manticore couple that have ruled Sharptooth Pass for seven years.  Together they have fathered half a dozen spike-tailed daughters.  Merrisart has begun to tire of the filthy beast, however—in his jealousy the manticore has devoured one too many of her charmed lovers—and she is now looking for a way to dispatch Grimmane without alerting their children to her complicity.

Pathfinder Bestiary 199

What do I know about manticores?  Goddamn near everything.

Dragon Magazine #153 features Spike Y. Jones’s “The Ecology of the Manticore” with some great Thomas Baxa art and (I think) one of the first appearances of his one-armed bard, Brendan Farwanderer.  (The same issue also features the introduction of the fabulous “The Voyage of the Princess Ark” series, which by now you’re probably sick of me mentioning.)  Look for it!

We also featured a manticore way back here.  (Apparently all my manticores have “Mane” in their name.  Whoops.)

And did anyone else notice that yet again we have a creature that can and does breed with sphinxes? 

One would assume this is involuntary on the sphinx’s part…(which means I might as well rename this blog Sphinxes in Refrigerators)…but then again she has twice the hit points and is CR 8.

Which means we’re either talking multiple manticores for one sphinx, upon which I would prefer not to dwell, or…and let me be clear, I’m not engaging in any sphinx-shaming here…apparently the gynos get down. 

You go, lion-riddle-girl!

Since we’re already doing shout-outs, the final word on manticores comes from Ninja Sex Party, whose eponymous ninja was my college symphony conductor.  Flawless Cartwheel Achieved!

(As a bonus, here is the “Not cool, Manticore” live version.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Manta Ray & Stingray

Stingrays don’t mean to be lethal—but in self-defense, they certainly can be.  Manta rays meanwhile, are majestic creatures that make ideal animal companions for aquatic creatures or even water-loving PCs.  Advanced specimens might even get a glide speed or a Flyby Attack, given their propensity for leaping into the air.

A party of adventurers awakens stranded on a sandbar, stripped of their armor and with the tide coming in.  The beach is only 50 yards away…but even the most cursory examination reveals crossing the water between means crossing the spawning ground for hundreds of irritable stingrays.  And how did the adventurers get here?  Were they shipwrecked?  Shanghaied?  Or is this only the first challenge of some dark game?

Not brave enough to attack human fishers and sailors themselves, shoal goblins spook manta rays into slamming into the men.  The goblins then set upon those knocked down or borne into the water.

Mako is an undine rogue who specializing boring holes into and otherwise sabotaging ships, making them vulnerable to sinking and salvage later.  Following the call of his watery nature has given him just enough druidic training to attract a stingray companion, who serves as a guard should anyone try to sneak up on Mako as he works.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 232

Okay, I’m weeks overdue on a mailbag post—syringesin and nikkeatsrocks, how I have neglected you!  But today’s shout-out goes to controlledescent, who left me fan mail that made me go “Dawww,”—PS: CD, tell us more about the side treks you whipped up—and believethehyperbole, who gave my radio show some love (which pretty much never happens on Tumblr!).  I repeat: “Dawww, you guys!”

Thanks for the notes, thanks for the Likes, and if you’re looking for more ways to help, tell your friends!  A link in your chat/Facebook status or a reblog can have a big impact.

Time for some shameless promotion.  After all, this is a Pathfinder/Dungeons & Dragons blog.  So I think a video by Dungeonesse totally fits, don’t you?

Nice work, J.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


There’s a wealth of folklore about the mandrake root—the most common being of its fatal shriek and the typical harvesting method (dog tied to the stalk, that when called pulls out the root and bears the brunt of the scream).  (But seriously, check out some of the others—in the Bible, it’s an aphrodisiac; in Germany, the product of hanged man’s seed (and yes, that means exactly what you think it means).  Pathfinder’s mandragoras only nauseate, but they’re still nasty little blighters, with poisonous slamming strikes.  And since mandragoras are good for spell components and have ties to demons, killing one might be just the start of the adventure.

Wizard Calev Messert has no time for folk superstitions about harvesting mandragoras with dogs—novice adventurers will do just fine.  Nor is he troubled if the mandragoras kill some of them in the process—he has no plans to pay them for their troubles, and is already planning instead to poison them and reanimate their corpses as undead.

Execution in Whitemarch comes in three varieties.  A simple hanging serves for horse thieves and the like.  Knights, gentry, and other important personages languish in jail until the king’s headsman makes his rounds.  But truly heinous offenders are left to hang in the gibbet at Carter’s Crossroads.  The last man to die there was no man at all, but the tiefling serial killer Barnaby Quicksaw.  Now mandragoras fed by his decaying viscera grow in the brambles beneath the gibbet.  Due to the rocky soil at Carter’s Crossroads the mandragoras have to struggle to uproot themselves, so the next public display will likely be in full swing when the shrieking plants attack.

King Willowfayeth of the elven nation of Intseneer has been driven nearly mad by the revelation of drow in his sacred woods.  Determined to drive them out, he has commanded his alchemists, wizards, and druids (coaxed by a few strategic “disappearances”) to summon demons to harvest for ichor, which in turn yields crop after crop of mandragoras.  For a while the mandragoras served as almost living mine fields, but the affair has since turned into a fiasco—the mandragoras are now germinating in the wild, the drow have grown adept at casting deeper darkness to slow the plants, and their raid have freed the summoned dretches to escape into the woods and wreak havoc.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 185

As a further note, I’d fully recommend taking that last line of the Bestiary 2 entry—“The newly created mandragora is hostile, even to its creator”—as a suggestion, not Gospel.  If it’s better role-playing to have a mandragora hate even its creator, go for it.  (For comic relief is one option, or that might be a good way to save a low-level party’s bacon if you need a convincing way to help captured PCs avoid a TPK, for instance).  But if you need guards for a mage’s tower and are tired of homunculi, you can do a lot worse than mandragoras.

Monday, November 26, 2012


What is it about Southeast Asian/Oceanic countries and their separating monsters?  Whatever it is, it’s pretty cool. 

The manananggal is similar to the slightly better known penanggalen, only instead of being a separating head trailing entrails, it’s a separating torso with batlike wings.  For game purposes, the main distinction is that the penanggalen is a template monster, better suited to serving as an NPC and scalable according to level, whereas the manananggal is a straight-up CR 7 beast.  Its vulnerability to light blades gives your party’s rogues, bards, duelists, and other light-on-their feet types a chance to shine in combat, and its obsession with pregnant women offers some dark plot material. 

Best of all, you can choose to play up either their foreignness or their similarity to vampires.  The manananggal can be a torso-detaching surprise welcome to Western-style adventurers (or even more cosmopolitan Eastern parties) on their first visit to the islands.  But with bat wings and a hatred of garlic, they’ll fit into a classic Gothic Transylvanian setting just as easily.

A tiefling adventuress needs help defeating a manananggal that is preying on local pregnant women, draining them of their blood.  She has an ulterior motive, however—as a priestess of the demon queen of stillbirths and deformities, she is secretly outraged that the manananggal has been feasting on women whose births were destined to be tiefling and half-demon spawn in her dark mistress’s image.

No house in Rostoyovar is ever without a garlic braid hung by the door.  Vampires rule the mountain nights, spawn of the vampire count Lord Premotyev.  But as the count is jealous and cautious, he only rarely sires true vampiric children.  Rather, he imparts only a fraction of his gift, breeding bestial vampire spawn and the dreaded “wing witches” whose ticking calls are more dreaded than any wolf howl.

A dueling society that is often dismissed as a fraternity of layabouts and dandies (and worse yet, lends its approval and trousers to female inverts), the Twilight Blades are known both for their skill at swordplay and their refusal to follow the norms for said swordplay.  Their reluctance to engage in duels of honor per Martine custom (and their chair-toppling, curtain-ripping acrobatics when forced to do so) has many onlookers brand them as cowards to boot.  In reality, they are fierce fighters, defending Martine’s innumerable bridges and skyways from the manananggals and vargouilles that plague the canal city’s nights.  Their nocturnal habits cause them to be up all hours, to sleep late, and they see no point in fighting duels with humans when they serve the greater good in secret—an attitude the society’s twin leaders, Tito Vigoli and his boyish sister Titania, loudly encourage.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 190

Radio show time!  Long-time readers/listeners know that the musical quality of my shows and the technical quality are inversely proportional.  So get ready for some awesome: Blood Diamonds remixes Ellie Goulding, Flock of Dimes channels Robyn, and I…muddle through as best I can.  Seriously, though, this one’s a keeper, so download it!  

(Music starts at 4:12. If the feed skips, load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, enjoy in iTunes for best results.)

Friday, November 23, 2012


Maharaja rakshasas are the apex of that vile race—creatures so evil and decadent that not only have they reincarnated as fiends, but also mastered the cycle of lives adeptly enough to climb to the very top of the rakshasa caste system.  The Bestiary 3 goes into great detail about maharajas and their natures, so I’ll just add one final thought: While there are numerous other CR 20 fiends (pit fiends, balors, etc.), one of their hallmarks is that these monsters dwell in remote planes far removed from the realms of man—in fact, gaining easier access to the Material Plane is often one of their obsessions.  Maharajas don’t need to reach across time and space—as native outsiders, they already walk among mortals, free to enchant, manipulate, enslave, and spread their evil at will.

An army of jotund trolls is approaching.  The norns have predicted a defending force of heroes will rally and drive them back.  But the steel-winged angel predicted to lead the countercharge is half a world away, chained in a maharaja’s seraglio.  She needs a rescue—and sometimes prophecy needs a helping hand.

A maharaja has stolen the secrets of urdefhan soul harvesting and clockwork technology to build the Engine of Fate.  Part of the maharaja’s bid to mount the next level of the rakshasa caste system, this monstrous minor artifact will not only pulp samsarans in its gears, but also rip their souls out of the cycle of reincarnation in the process.

The Kingdom of One Thousand and One Forms is known far and wide as a land of monsters, where the nagaji and minotaur natives rub shoulders with a dizzying array of humanoids and intelligent monsters that beggars description.  What is not commonly known is the reason for this profusion of diversity—the secret monarch of the land is a human, snake, bull, and crocodile-headed rajadhirajas.  By sending dandasukas to neighboring lands to quietly recruit cripples, lepers, the fatally ill, and other sufferers deemed untouchable, the rajadhirajas has amassed a fanatically loyal army happy to fight and die for the lord who has already rebirthed them once.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 226–227

Thursday, November 22, 2012


So how do you run your magmins?  If I’m recalling correctly (always a risky assumption, but bear with me), they were nuisances and comic relief in most editions of the world’s oldest role-playing game.  They were never going to be the object of your quests, but they always served to make the object of your quests harder.  Fire elementals might sear you, but magmins were the ones who burned your spellbook.  If you needed to sneak silently into a dragon’s lair via the back way, that was when a magmin chose to pick a fight.

Pathfinder’s magmins add to that by being paranoid, querulous, and—oddly enough—connoisseurs.  They are protective of their lairs—especially their precious, carefully spiced magma pools—and any interlopers are liable to be challenged, questioned, and discouraged or driven off.  So they’re still potential comic relief…but underneath there is a bit more substance, even backbone.  PCs may scoff at the magmins’ preoccupation with their magma pools, but that very obsession gives magmins something to defend.

A party of adventurers hires a swaggering ifrit to guide them through the Canyon of Flame.  Along the way, he manages to insult not just one, but three separate magmin guards—in very graphic terms.  All of which is highly amusing at first…until gang upon gang of the creatures surround the party in a box canyon.  They demand an apology, treasure, and food for their cooking pools…which may or may not include the ifrit and any adventurers who joined the ribald fun.

Magmins are on the hunt for new spices in preparation for a cooking contest at one of their conclaves.  Some of the spices include cinnamon, rubies, shaved ioun stones, salt mephit salts, construct soot, familiar hair, and finely aged half-elf.

Asking questions—and demanding answers—is second nature to magmins.  Magmin rhetorician Xerxes Flametongue has turned this inquisitiveness into a school of philosophy (centered around his race’s natural paranoia).  Sages, wizards, bards, and alchemists can all learn something (including several skills, feats, and rare secrets) from Xerxes, provided they can survive the heat of his classroom…and the attacks of his even more paranoid disciples and students.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 189

Happy Thanksgiving!  Of course, the day’s almost over, so I guess I’m hoping it was happy.  Better late than never.  And if you’re one of my non-American readers, if you know any Yanks, please take them out for a drink—they’re liable to be a tad homesick this weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Magma Ooze

Adventuring in volcanic environments is dangerous in and of itself.  It gets even harder when the lava comes looking for you.

Magma oozes are blatantly obvious encounters for any volcanic/magma/Plane of Fire and/or Earth-related encounters.  Here are a few less likely places where they might be found…

A giant in life, the Pharaoh of Fire is more powerful than most mummies, and not just because of his size.  The secret to his many varied special abilities is a set of enchantments placed on his organs, now preserved in canopic jars.  Six of these jars exist: four containing his stomach, lungs, liver, and intestines, and two containing dormant poisonous magma oozes to roast and devour the unwary.

The expansionist dwarves of Tellus Hok do not regard non-dwarves as people.  In peacetime this means refusing to learn other languages (especially Elvish and Gnomish tongues) and relying on dwarves from other subraces (“nickelbloods”) to serve as interpreters and traders.  In time of war (far more common these days), this means abandoning the standard conventions of war in favor of extermination.  The high dwarves’ most infamous tactic is catapulting water-cooled crystalline magma oozes into enemy strongholds.

Delving deep below the earth, adventurers discover the bodies of kobold and human slaves staked alive to the tunnel floor, forming a crude trail.  The trail leads to a lost city. After the cataclysm of the Remaking, which sank a continent, raised a mountain range, and changed coastlines all over the world, Tashuar was one of many cities whose populace found itself suddenly miles underground once the dust—and their metropolis—had settled. Rather than flee for the surface or degenerate into morlocks (as so many others would go on to do), the Tashuar stayed put and adapted thanks to natural wonders—six pillars of lava that offered heat and light for crops in their new cavern home.  But in the last fifty years, five of the pillars have one by one grown cold and dark.  Now the Tashuar survive by attracting magma oozes to their cities, luring them with the trail of slaves into giant magical vats that leech the oozes for the heat that keeps Tashuar’s hope alive.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 184

Huh.  In my head this was a short entry.

Let’s not forget the magma mephit!  We covered him all the way back here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Magma Elemental

A fusion of Fire and Earth, magma elementals burn with the energy of creation.  But creation also involves a lot of false starts and failure, which may explain why these creatures are most notable for vomiting.  The good news: It’s lava vomit, and what GM doesn’t love that?  (Seriously, there may be no more perfect sentence in any rule book than, “At the GM’s discretion, this puddle of lava could start secondary fires.”)

Accomplished conjurers defy the stereotype of the absent-minded wizard, keeping their towers in meticulously good order.  This is because those who don’t never survive to become accomplished.  Wembly Davin had just summoned his first Small magma elementals when a stray breeze knocked some papers across his summoning circle, disrupting it.  The newly freed elementals immediately set fire to his lab and have since escaped to menace an entire district of Strangeport.

Regular temblors keep Mount Boroburo ever smoking, and the constant flow of lava draws magma elementals from their Para-Elemental Plane.  Typically they take forms roughly approximating local creatures, but the occasional manifestation of more extreme shapes, including behirs and brain collectors, may point to dark doings on the volcano.

A shugenja has a vendetta against the monks of Seven Falling Waters, after her aged grandfather died in their care.  When ronin mercenaries fail to defeat the fists of the vigilant monks, she turns to magma elementals, reasoning that they will make the monks suffer for each blow that lands.

Daily Bestiary 2 118–119

PS: If you use magma monsters and your players were in college around 1997, you are asking for Dr. Evil impressions.  I’m not saying this to dissuade you—that may be exactly why you should use them.  But forewarned is polearmed, and all that.

You know what I forgot to pimp yesterday?  My radio show!  Where you can get anything you want, including (in honor of Thanksgiving, of course) all 18 minutes of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Plus another Thanksgiving classic from Too Much Joy, the 20th anniversary of Ween’s “Push th’ Little Daisies,” and killer new songs from Amy Cook and Ra Ra Riot.  Download it.

(If the feed skips, let load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes. Link is good till Friday, 11/23, at midnight.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Magma Dragon

One of the primal dragons, magma dragons dwell on the Plane of Fire, border regions of the Plane of Earth, in remote volcanic lairs or deep underground.  Unlike most dragons that dwell in such locations (especially the fiery reds), magma dragons are not evil.  But they are as tempestuous as the volcanoes they resemble, so when they do eventually (and inevitably) explode into anger, the results are similarly catastrophic.

Small for his age, the magma dragon Clasm has left his home plane for the Plane of Earth.  The cold makes him sluggish and irritable, but the shaitans give him so many fascinating things to smelt and so many alien creatures to burn and devour.  The runt plans to return home triumphant with geodes packed with bushels of gems and a hide hardened from consuming so many denizens of Earth.

Magma dragons regard the creation of firearms with fascination. Tyrakolyx thinks it is an abomination, and uses his skills to swim through magma flows and lava tubes to destroy the gunworks of the dwarves.  Pyre of Might sees firearms as a glorification of his element.  He has commanded his army of duergar and azer slaves to come up with a bombard big enough for a dragon to wield, but his violent rages at every setback continue to delay the project.

Once a great fiery terror, the great wyrm Allikaliki’i is content now to slumber and practice various stratagems on his giant obsidian game boards.  (The playing pieces are old foes he entombed in lava.)  Two new developments have roused him from his retirement: the revelation that a pair of underworld dragon twins have been tunneling throughout his territory for months without him noticing, and what they found there—an ark containing four slumbering tzitzimitls.  But since most other dragons only know him as Mad Tephra, Doom of the Western Isles, he doesn’t know how to go about asking for advice or aid in a fashion that doesn’t involve threats, magma breath, and walls of fire.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 100–101

Friday, November 16, 2012


The cat-legged, winged maftets are yet another guardian race PCs are likely to encounter while investigating desert and canyon ruins.  Your power-gaming players are likely to be impressed with their double scimitar skills (take that, Drizzt!) and their ability to fire off two spell-like abilities at once.  But there’s more to explore. Pathfinder #15: “The Armageddon Echo” notes that they are also known as sphinxkin (an automatically interesting link right there) singhala, or aslani, so you can drop them into a number of different cultures and contexts with just a name change.  The source of their runic tattoos is another mystery that could lead back to ancient sphinxes, lammasus, shedus, lamias, dragons, dwarves, giants, divs, aboleths, or even gods.  And are their tattoos related to their compulsive need to guard old ruins?  One final note: As the Egyptian goddess Mafdet loathed snakes, her namesakes might hate them as well…

Palimpsest is the wizened shaman leader of a pride of maftets based around a ruined set of giant-sized stairs.  Her tribe will allow outsiders to pass along the steps but not copy or deface the markings thereon.  Palimpsest’s moniker comes from her bare skin: When she was young a powerful spellcaster permanently erased her tattoos with magic.  She would pay dearly for information about him; she remembers only his cruel laugh and his pet shriezyx (Magnimar, City of Monuments).

The androsphinx and rune expert Ptolivar lives in the High Desert with a pride of female maftet sentinels. He pretends not to understand Common, speaking to humanoids through a maftet interpreter.  The pride will also not allow anyone to enter the sand-covered city they guard, responding to interlopers with drawn swords.  If adventurers prove themselves to be enemies of the serpentfolk, though, all pretenses and objections are dropped.  The city Ptolivar’s pride keeps watch over was once a serpentfolk metropolis, and he needs allies he can trust to explore the subterranean passages where the winged maftets won’t go.

Sanjay is a singhala who resents his pride’s female leadership.  But his time alone on the road has him craving companionship.  Falling back on his instincts, he has taken to “guarding” fords, bridges, and abandoned temples for a week or so at a time before moving on, challenging those he meets to a scimitar duel.  Though he would not admit it to himself, he is looking for a tribe of his own to belong to.  Any male with the appropriate Leadership feat and score could win him as a cohort, whether or not they defeat him in combat.

Pathfinder 15 88 & Bestiary 3 188

Researching the maftet made me realizing I need to look at the cohort and improved familiar tables more often.  Of course, given the stacks of unread RPG books by my bed, relooking at anything is low on the priority list…

Also, welcome to the letter M!  (I thought this was going to be a short section of the alphabet until I opened the Bestiary 2, which might as well have just been called the Mestiary.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Introduced all the way back in “The Skinsaw Murders” (that’s Pathfinder #2 for you all keeping track), lyrakien look like pixies or sprites, but are actually butterfly-winged azatas.  Unless called by the Improved Familiar Feat, glistenwings will typically be encountered by travelers (making them a good excuse to deliver clues or plot hooks, as the Bestiary 2 notes).  They might also be PCs’ first exposure to the plots of the azatas, and are a good way to give the party bard, gnome, or halfling some more screen time during an otherwise combat-heavy adventure.

Listeners passing near Stone Giant Head will be challenged by a chirping disembodied voice.  Those who can answer the voice’s three questions will find their way speeded and minor wounds cured.  Those who are rude or evil will be left dazed or confused and drawn along a path full of ankle-turning loose scree.  Those who sing for the voice will find that Stone Giant Head conceals a pass that will cut travel time along the mountain by a day.

Three groups of lyrakien frequent Birch Vale.  The Chapel of the Lost, site of a halfling champion’s death, is always guarded by a band of glistenwings (though never the same one from month to month).  The Merry Jugglers juggle acorns and rocks for coins in the market of Ilim, just outside the Temple of the Triumphant Crusader.  (This is not a coincidence; the temple serves lawful evil worshippers of a deity of nobility, glory in war, and servants’ submission, and the light-hearted lyrakien are spies.)  The blue-winged Midnight Monarchs are a full company of 24 azatas that migrate like their butterfly eponyms (albeit only at night).  They are notorious for unleashing their starlight blasts with little provocation.

After the death of his beloved cat familiar in what he swore would be his last quest, the abjurer Cosby Fanshaw fully expected to call another familiar in keeping with his specialization—another cautious cat perhaps, or a toad or hedgehog.  Instead he received the surprise of his life: a lyrakien named Aphra who is outgoing, risk-taking, garrulous, and generally everything the abjurer is not.  Cosby is stunned to discover himself adventuring again (at Aphra’s urging).  She meanwhile has not revealed if what greater purpose, if any, drew her to Cosby.  She has also not revealed to anyone but her dryad confidante that she has fallen in love with shy, magic-circle-crafting mage—new emotions that delight and embarrass her to no end.

Pathfinder 2 58–59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 38

The aforementioned Pathfinder issue has more on lyrakien, particularly their connection to Desna.

Lyrakien look like faeries but aren’t.  Which raises the whole question of faeries in general.  The typical line is that fey (at least the original/elder ones) are somewhat outside the cosmological order—spirits from another age or reality (such as Golarion’s First World), or angels or even Immortals (as suggested in D&D’s Known World setting), who sat out of some great war between the celestial and infernal planes, etc.  Often these fey are depicted as not having gods or clerics and are reluctant to enter holy ground or touch holy water.  (This may also be what separates fey from elves and gnomes—at some point they entered the cycles of being and mortality in some fashion while the fey stood apart.)

But the nature of fey is also somewhat porous—sometimes fey are also spirits of trees, the land, or gateways; sometimes they have ties to the Elemental Planes; and sometimes mortals can reincarnate as fey when conditions are right.  And for every supplement that says the above, the next one that comes out starts listing stats and clerical domains for powers like Rhiannon, Oberon and Titania, Queen Mab, etc.

In my head, I’m keeping them separate, but as usual, you can do whatever you like.  If you want lyrakien to be a kind of heavenly fey, or serve as a link tying fey to the azatas, go right ahead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lurker in Light

Remember what I said a few weeks ago in the leprechaun entry, about not needing your fey to be totally Disney or totally eeeeeevil?  Yeah, well, forget all that.  Because these guys are absolute bastards, and I love them for it.

Like the jyoti, lurkers in light defy player expectations that light = good.  Unlike jyoti, they will torture you for the hell of it.  You know the classic Spielbergian motif of “the light that obscures”?  Yeah, now imagine the thing inside that light isn’t E.T., but Chucky.  Oh, and guess what?—they can summon air elementals!  How?  By multiple human sacrifice.

Worse yet, lurkers know that their pixie-like appearances give them a free pass, and they will use it.  (RPG Superstar winner Sam Zeitlin played this up in The Midnight Mirror.)  GMs, if you’ve ever wanted replicate the scene with the cute blue things that suddenly turn vicious in Galaxy Quest, this is your monster.  If a leprechaun is the kid who copied your notes in high school, the lurker in light is the prom queen who copied your term paper, burned your hard copy, deleted the file from your computer, then had you hauled up before the Academic Honor Committee on plagiarism charges (saying you tried to copy her), all with the a smile that says, “Who are they going to believe? Me, or…whatever you are?” 

(Somewhere in there she also probably also used a bucket of pig’s blood.  You get the idea.)

I haven’t even gotten to their hatred of all creatures that live in the dark.  Imagine coming across a pair of these guys ripping the organs out of a nailed-down, still-living darkmantle—and then having them drop everything to gleefully maul the party dwarf instead?

In short…man, aren’t these little guys fantastic?!? 

Fires are breaking out all over the Misty Forest.  The pixie stewards who would usually stop such blazes are found dead, their wings ripped off and their bodies horribly mutilated.  Equally disturbing are the piles of corpses—badgers, woodchucks, and other burrowing mammals, along with the odd goblin.  The culprits are a gang of lurkers in light.  They arrived in this world at daybreak and were horrified by nightfall.  They found fires an excellent way to ward off the dark, and now attempt to kill anyone (such as the pixies) who attempts to quench their flames or ruin their fun.

A wall made of brilliantly lit crystal panes can be played as if it were a musical instrument to unlock a secret door.  The curious may play three wrong notes without harm, but each wrong note after that summons a lurker in light (up to the room limit of five, though if one is killed another wrong note could replace it).  The lurkers are furious at being summoned, and immediately attempt to slay any creatures in the room to open a ritual gate back home.

The Everbright Chalice is an artifact whose mysteries have earned it its own knightly order, the Banner of the Bright Chalice, who have housed the glowing cup in a cragtop keep that doubles as a lighthouse.  Recently lurkers in light claiming to be envoys from the Plane of Air have asked to pay their respects and help tend the artifact.  The knights, much honored, assented.  (Though a religious order, the knights have few paladins in their ranks, so the lurkers’ evil natures went uninspected.) In time the lurkers asked to minister to the fetchling minority in city below; the knights assented to this request, too.  And that’s when the murders started…

The Great Beyond 58–59 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 180

Given that lurkers first appeared in The Great Beyond, I’m wondering if we have occasional commenter Mr. Todd Stewart to thank for them.  Oh, I hope so.

Also note that, for you Golarion players, there are some tantalizing hints that lurkers in light may have some relation to the gnomes and their exile from the First World.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lunar Naga

Paizo has featured a number of astrology/astronomy-related monsters and locations (blink dogs come to mind, as do several adventure locations in the Pathfinder Adventure Path series)—not quite to the point of overuse, but it’s definitely been a strong motif.  That’s likely because the stars and planets matter in Golarion—the planets are real places you can visit, many sorcerous bloodlines and oracle mysteries are related to the heavens, and there are dark things living in the Void.  Not counting Spelljammer (where the stars weren’t mysterious, just new “dungeons” to visit) the only other setting that’s been as concerned with celestial movements was Eberron, whose dragons were obsessed with the Prophecy and whose planets tracked the movements of the planes.

I bring this up, of course, because lunar nagas are star-obsessed.  Naturally, they don’t have to be, if you don’t want them to be—the default spell list makes a good case for a race of spies or undead-hunters, too.  But let’s roll with the star obsession, because that makes adventure planning easy.  A subterranean naga obsessed with stars is going to need a lair that winds up and down her mountaintop—a perfect dungeon for exploring.  A limbless naga fiddling with complicated telescopes is going to need a host of minions to help, lots of magical aid, or even PCs to run errands (or to try to steal from).  Other awesome locations to find nagas: an orrery, a planetarium, a stone circle, a crop circle, the site of desert geoglyphs, a glacial observatory, a ruined wizard’s tower, a giant stone calendar or sundial, and so on. 

So however you want to use lunar nagas—as friends, foes, foils, side treks, or even employers—they are your excuse to go big on the set design.

An abandoned dwarven monastery has been retooled as a human prison—the monks’ spare cells and communal quarters being ideal for convicts.  Wanting access to the monastery’s calendar room, the lunar naga Ovenia decides a prison break would be the fastest way to clear the facility.  In her eagerness, she chooses the night of the full moon, unaware that lycanthropy is sweeping through the convict population.

The elven navy of Weareth is known for its fine ships (some of which are alive or even sentient), its magical might, and its navigational superiority.  It is not always known for winning battles, however—sometimes attacking ports seemingly at random, or breaking off from engagements for no reason.  This is because the elves rarely fight just for political or economic reasons alone.  The Wearethen navy relies on lunar nagas as navigators and sages, and they do as the stars (and the chaotic neutral nagas) dictate—playing some long game that is dictated as much by celestial portents as realpolitik.

On Thirdearth, lunar nagas don’t just get their name because of their shimmering scales.  They are actually from the moon.  A trip on a skyship reveals a nation of albino lizardfolk ruled by a ruling class of lunar nagas, who regularly communicate with their earthbound brethren.  Their plots may not bode well for the nations of men…but they are also Thirdearth’s only defense against even worse things living under the moon’s surface, including spirit nagas, morlocks, and demodand-worshipping troglodytes.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 197

Monday, November 12, 2012


On the whole I don’t love antimagic/dispelling monsters, except where tradition dictates (like golems).  I think it’s an allergy I developed reading 1e and 2e Forgotten Realms products, where every other new monster was a magic-eating or magic-resistant mystical blob.  But Pathfinder has been more chill with such monsters, so I’m happy to see the lukwata—the eldritch encrustation actually gives this cryptid a little bit of an edge, so it’s not just yet another big aquatic beast, and their funky damage reduction ought to drive the typical mid-level party nuts (especially if they’ve been lording their gear over the local natives). 

Pathfinder Adventure Path #41: The Thousand Fangs Below has a full write-up of the lukwata, including how much local tribes revere them, but the abbreviated Bestiary 3 entry still offers plenty of ideas to work with…

Hexed by a forest spirit they offended, members of an adventuring party are having trouble removing the various curses under which they labor (slowly turning into plants, suffering wereboar lycanthropy, agathion hallucinations, etc.)  After ordinary and magical remedies fail, they are told they have one option left—they must court the dispelling bite of a lukwata…and survive.

The Uronbo people take life debts seriously.  One such life debt is the only thing keeping a cannibalistic druid in service to a party of northern explorers.  But they in turn must save his dire crocodile from the jaws of a lukwata, or the cannibal will declare the debt null, leaving them stranded in a land of serpentfolk, strix, and charau-ka.

The blue-woad-sporting Highlanders are suspicious of arcane magic—they force their sorcerers to live alone and loathe wizardry as an import of their Aelish oppressors.  Capable fighters in their own right, they turn to divine, usually temporary enchantments when needed (such as weapons blessed by their clerics or left under a trilithon for a night).  Aelish war wizards, meanwhile, are reluctant to push their supposed magical advantage.  The sheer age of the Highlands themselves seems to cause magic to behave strangely, and the land is bordered by a succession of rivers and lochs, each with its own territorial lukwata that seems to sense when a mage is passing nearby.

Pathfinder Adventure Path 41 86–87 & Daily Bestiary 3 187

Hi!  Patch here.  Since more than 20(!) percent of you are new in the past six weeks, let me bring you up the speed: In addition to being a big Pathfinder/D&D nerd, I am also a big music nerd.  I have a radio show called The New Indie Canon on 88.1 WMUC-FM in College Park, MD.  I used to post links to my shows, but in mid-September things on our website went kaboom in a big way and the archive busted.

But the good news is, we now have a new web address!  (Take that, cybersquatting Norwegians!)  And stream ripping/archiving is back up!  So how did I celebrate my first to-be-archived show in more than a month?

…Um, by only prepping half my show, showing up late, and turning on the wrong mic, thus botching my intro.  Sigh.  (Oh, and right before I went on, iTunes decided it wanted to check my music library.  Which takes, like, 10 minutes of the rainbow swirl of sad, because I have 60 days of music on my laptop alone.  Thus I had to totally rethink my first set.)

So I’m lame.  But the music is not.  So click here for the best new and independent rock in the capital region (including that great Purity Ring/Danny Brown mashup), plus a bonus look back at the 20th anniversary of a little acoustic folk album known as…let’s see, what was it?…oh right, Rage Against the Machine.

(Music start about 8:15 into the file.  The feed can skip, so for best results let load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes.)