Friday, December 28, 2012

Mithral Golem

Don’t forget, The Daily Bestiary is on vacation for a week starting today!

While we’re at it, this is also The Daily Bestiary’s 400th post.  That’s a lot of monsters, with still plenty more left to do!

Mithral is rare and prized—not so much as adamantine and some other starmetals, but certainly as useful, precious stuff that can command a king’s ransom.  Making a golem out of one is thus a costly endeavor when the same amount of metal could enchant several suits of armor.  So it is only done with good reason—often when time (or Time) is literally of the essence.

A mithral golem was damaged (to within a single hit point) by a powerful cold effect.  Trapped in its brittle and scarred humanoid form, it moans (or at least expels gasses) softly, dimly trying to gather up and melt into itself to heal.

A mithral golem has gone berserk, the elemental forces within it raging that so much of the precious metal and the element of Time was misused in its construction.  Its ability to melt into liquid has it rampaging through a dwarven smelter level by level, beheading all those it finds in even the most secure panic rooms.

Adventurers find themselves serving as the game pieces for an interplanar game of chess, facing off against ranks of constructs.  Due to their ability to move and make a full attack, mithral golems operate as knight pieces.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 139

I don’t love the mithral golem illustration in the Bestiary 2, but it certainly does look speedy…

And as for the fluid form ability…“Have you seen this boy?”

If none of the above makes sense, keep in mind that I am an American attempting to function on UK time.  It is 9-something PM here and I got maybe an hour’s sleep on the plane.  Attempting to rest without the aid of Benedryl was a mistake.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Once a branch of the gremlin family, mites are a cautionary tale—an example of what happens when fey lose their connection to their home realm.  Even gnomes and other gremlins fare better—gnomes are exiles, but they have embraced life in the mortal world with vigor; and the other gremlin species still cling by a thread to the magic of their forebears, though their strange obsessions with the things of this world (especially machinery) continue to threaten their mystical status.  Mites are bloated, warped pathetic signposts for what happens when that connection is lost.

Exploring what happened to mites can certainly be the source of a mite-centric adventure.  (You might even indicate their faltering magic with prestidigitation spells that misfire, or describe successfully saved-against doom spells as fizzing out pathetically.)  They’re also poignant examples of what happens when ugliness turns in on itself, then outward at the world.  Mistreating a mite practically guarantees retribution, but even treating one well won’t necessarily melt its heart, as used to abuse and loathing (including self-loathing), as they are).

If all else fails, of course, mites make for a great excuse to just launch hordes of giant insects at your players.  And that’s always a good thing, right?

The Beating of Ugly Tom is a local spring festival in the town of Hope Hollow.  (Some 100 years back an infamous escaped criminal was caught on the day of the local floral festival.  His captors suspended him from the maypole so he couldn’t get away again before authorities arrived.)  Every year the townsfolk make a piñata of Ugly Tom and beat it with rods until sweetmeats come out.  Unbeknownst to them, every year they are watched by mites who regard the festival with horror.  This year, though, the townsfolk happen to make Ugly Tom out of blue cloth (an old bedspread)—and the blue-skinned fey, taking this as a personal insult, leap from their hidden bolt-holes and attack.

A nymph has promised a tribe of mites that she can lead them back to the realm of the fey and restore their magic.  The price is the destruction of a human town.  The mites lead their giant termite (use giant ant statistics) and wasp soldiers to destroy the damn upriver, never knowing they are being led astray by a magically disguised imp.

Gremlins have discovered a large mite colony known as the Kingdom of Hate, and laid siege to it with single-minded destructive ferocity.  The mites send their stoutest and bravest warriors (all of these things being relative terms) to recruit human aid, promising a wealth of (previously pilfered) magic items.  But if the adventurers save the day, the mites refuse to pay them (citing imagined betrayals and insults), and if the party includes a dwarf or gnome they attack outright.

Pathfinder Bestiary 207

I don’t even remember mites having much of a character in AD&D—they were just nuisances in the gremlin family tree.  So I’m a big fan of Paizo’s take on them, and am impressed that they made it into the first Bestiary.

I am sitting typing this is in the lounge at Dulles Airport, on my way to London.  So yes, The Daily Bestiary is going on vacation for another week.  Sorry to do this to you guys again so soon—I certainly didn’t anticipate my computer breaking earlier this month!—but I’m in need of a change of scenery, and the UK seems like a good choice, January weather be damned.

I’ll do my best to get the mithral golem entry up tomorrow so we finish out this week, then regular blogging will resume January 7.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Minotaurs!  Are they not the best humanoids ever?

(That was a trick question.  Gnolls are the best humanoids ever.  Minotaurs are the best monstrous humanoids ever.)

The minotaur is the quintessential monster at the heart of the dungeon—if you have a maze, it deserves a minotaur.  They’re kidnappers, bloody murderers, and cannibals.  They’re excellent brutes and bodyguards (often with their own surly agendas).  They’re a good intro to encounters with giants and other monstrous humanoids (medusas and minotaurs make for a combo, for instance).  And yes, they also make good heroes and PCs (they played a big role in the Dragonlance setting, and I’m sure WoW’s tauren have inspired plenty of players, too—the “proud yet noble race” angle works well for such PCs, as does the “isolated redeemer a ruined race” approach).

So for me, minotaurs boil down into two main concepts: either as the characters who most straddle the lines between monster and man…or the maze, the maze, the maddening maze…

Minotaurs love complexity, especially mazes and certain kinds of machinery.  With their low Intelligence, they’re not the best inventors or creators, but (thanks to their higher Wisdom) they are superb adaptors and jury-riggers (one reason they are so quick to move into already-established mazes).  Bartusk One-Horn has recently captured a gnome crossbow maker and has forced the tiny man to build ever more elaborate traps and weapons for the minotaur’s pleasure.  Bartusk covered his tracks well, but his maze was discovered by gremlins who then stole and smashed some of the new contraptions, leaving a trail for adventurers to follow.

Baron Kavix, “the Bull Baron,” is that rarest of things—a minotaur dandy.  Through skill at both arms and flattery, he parlayed a job as a bodyguard into a military commission, then a knighthood, then a title.  Now high society regards him as something of a wonder.  His secret is that, while gifted with intelligence far beyond most minotaurs, he is no less bloodthirsty than his kin.  The maze he hunts is the maze of intrigue and relationships in court, and his machinations have so far ruined two families and fanned the flames of revolution along the border.  But he can navigate an actual maze as well—if exposed he will retreat to the city’s sewers, where he has created a maze of horrors for his personal amusement and safety.

Before Baphomet, the Dread Demon Lord of Mazes, corrupted the minotaur race, there was Knossus of the Labyrinth, a deity of knowledge and architecture who offered the bull-men wisdom through the meditation and practice of walking a labyrinth.  A tiny minority of minotaurs still reveres him or his son Dabur.  They also guard a secret—that their bestial kin can be freed of their instinctual Baphomet-corrupted bloodlust if they are forced to completely trace a labyrinth’s path.  More and more of these redeemed minotaurs are being seen along the Crescent Coast, and servants of Baphomet and the other demon lords are desperate to snuff them out.

Classic Monsters Revisited 40–45 & Pathfinder Bestiary 206

Obviously, Classic Monsters Revisited has more on minotaurs, including some variants, feats, and stats for a double crossbow.

I’d also love to hear how you play minotaurs—seems like everyone’s take on them is a little different.  I definitely like mine more civilized but with an underpinning of blood rage, ancient curse, or demonic influence.

And old-school shout-out to my boy Kaz.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


How appropriate that on a day we unwrap mysterious boxes of all sizes, our monster is a treasure chest filled with teeth...

I’m a fan of all of Paizo’s Revisited books, but Dungeon Denizens Revisited is definitely worth an extra look because of how seriously it takes some of the typical but typically weird monsters that stock your average dungeon.  Clinton Boomer’s take on the biology/psychology of mimics (as insane creatures convinced they will evolve into humans) is definitely worth a read (as is his list of variant abilities for tweaking yours). 

And that’s the thing about mimics—with Int 10 and the ability to speak Common, they may have loads outlandish (or revelatory) things to say…if you can stop one from eating you long enough to talk to it.  Of course, when your bed or your rowboat sprouts a fanged mouth, conversation is probably not the first thing on your mind.

Caught in the middle of a religious war between the Revivalists and the Cerulean Heart, a sprawling citadel has changed hands several times; each side sits firmly entrenched in a wing as they duel over the keep’s heart.  Each cohort also believes the other is ignorant of the secret door hidden in the bookshelf in the library, sending agents through the tunnels to sabotage and spy on the enemy.  But some of these agents don’t return—the secret door is actually a mimic lured from the dungeon by the constant fighting, who allows the spies to go through but gobbles them up on their return trip.

A clutch of chokers stole several children, intent on devouring them, only to be driven off by an unlikely protector: a mimic fascinated by these “people dolls.”  Squirreling them away in its lair, it seeks to talk to them and amuse them by changing shapes.  But if adventurers do not intervene, eventually it will grow tired of this and demand the children demonstrate how they grow into real people…or it will “take their doll bodies apart” to find out.  Meanwhile, the chokers still hunger for their lost repast...

On most worlds, sages suspect aboleths or ropers created mimics.  On Nimmelheim, the gnomes tell a different story.  When Garen Highmount proposed a prank contest for all the gnome deities and demigods, Jaxen of the Jet Pommel offered a jewelry box that tried to bite anyone who opened it.  The wound it gave Garen nearly cost the god his finger, and was deemed in such poor taste by the assembled host that Jaxen was shunned for a year.  The box was hurled into the depths, where it spawned the first mimics.  Since then, Nimmelheim mimics have held a particular hatred for gnomes.  Jaxen, meanwhile, would go on to suffer the Seven Shunnings, eventually warping into the acid-oozing, protoplasmic demon lord the Delver, the adversary of the entire gnome pantheon.

Pathfinder Bestiary 205

Thanks to some rather…evocative mimic miniatures my GM had (featuring some particularly tentacular pseudopods), mimics in our campaign came to be known as “rape boxes.”  *facepalm*

Sigh—I was coming up too close on the midnight deadline to pull together my radio show post last night.  But if you’re not sick of Christmas yet, here’s Saturday’s radio show—a New Indie Christmas edition of The New Indie Canon.  It’s two hours of new and classic holiday music, including Calexico, Best Coast, Guster, Rufus Wainwright, and more. Download it and enjoy the merry!

(Music starts just shy of the four-minute mark in the file. If the feed skips, let load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes. Link Good until Friday, 12/28, at midnight.)

Monday, December 24, 2012


Spirits of air don’t just inhabit mountain peaks and open plains.  Mihstus are spirits of spoilt air, dank air, oxygen-less air—the stale stink of the long-sealed tomb.  They are air that doesn’t want to be disturbed, that wants to be preserved in isolation, that is inimical to life. 

Given their deadly embrace special ability, they might even be the spirits of explosive decompression—you can imagine a spelljamming/voidsailing campaign where spacewalking PCs have to wear special suits to shield them from the attention of the void’s jealous mihstus, who loathe all air breathers and thirst for their fluids.

Also interesting is their choice in companions—the Bestiary 2 mentions rakshasas and cloud giants.  This points to a sympathy with diverse other selfish and evil creatures who enjoy hunting, blood sports, and otherwise spreading misery.

A room in a tomb complex contains a sealed door, a small stream, and a very well hidden cache of potions of water breathing.  If the door is opened, stale crypt air spills out, fouling the room and bearing with it a mihstu enraged at being disturbed.  Alternately, if adventurers use the potions to bypass the next room entirely by remaining underwater, the mihstu never senses their presence.

On the trail of a mass murderer and vivisectionist, an adventuring party raids one of his safe houses, a magically refrigerated room in a slaughterhouse decorated with corpses of his latest victims.  One of the criminal’s summoned accomplices, a mihstu, is still in the room, kept stunned and senseless by the cold.  But the party’s investigation warms the room enough to rouse the elemental creature, causing the splattered gore on the floor to rise up into a tornado of blood and claws.

A powerful fey has come to power in the Endwood, calling herself as the Handmaid of Air and Darkness.  If she is not an actual servant of the famous Queen, she is at least a canny player, invoking the Queen’s power without presuming too much. But perhaps she does represent the dread faerie monarch…for her constant companions are personifications of Air and Darkness themselves, in the form of a mihstu and a soul eater.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 190

I should have mentioned this before now, but Penny Arcade combined D&D and the holidays in one neat package.  Enjoy it starting here.  And happy holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Mythical merrows were essentially merfolk or nereids, but for the most part (the previously mentioned book The Sea People being an exception), D&D and Pathfinder have used the name for aquatic ogres.  Whether they’re actually cousins of ogres or not is up to you—at least one Pathfinder Adventure Path installment (in the Kingmaker series, I believe) used merrows as the result of an amphibious curse instead.  Either way, with their extra Stealth in water and their javelins they make good ambushers, grabbing peasant meals or spearfishing for PCs.

A gang of saltwater merrows duels for territory with a gang of scrags.  Previously the regenerating scrags had forced the merrows to retreat, but during their last scrap the merrows accidentally discovered the scrags’ vulnerability on land.  Just as a party of adventurers reaches a sleepy fishing village at nightfall, the stronger merrows force the scrags up onto the beach for a battle that threatens to reduce the local cottages to flinders.

Merrows are less fractious than ogres—but as creatures of the sea and land they are pulled in many directions, particularly where religion is concerned.  Merrows do produce the occasional adept, shaman, druid, or witch doctor, and these spellcasters might heed the call of giant racial deities; deities of the sea, the hunt, or hunger; nature itself; demons; or stranger powers of darkness.  When merrows attack outside their traditional hunting grounds or display new tactics, it’s often due to the influence of a new spellcaster and her patron.

On Greenworld, merrows and merfolk are a single species.  The beautiful mermaids are the females and merrows are their bestial male counterparts.  While their biological drive compels mermaids to mate with merrows, they lust after the comparative beauty and greater intellect of human and elven men.  The result is that a cuckolded merrow’s claws have rent many a poor fisherman, and occasionally a young merrow will lurch up from the riverbank, demanding to meet his human father.  Even if accepted (obviously a rare occurrence), such reunions almost always end in bloodshed before a fortnight has passed.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 189

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Under the sea / merfolk swim free / Paizo’s are neutral / Lacking in scruples / Take it from me…

I…should probably go to Hell for that.

Anyway, merfolk’s brief mentions in the first few issues of Pathfinder were another early indication of Paizo’s project of reimagining iconic monsters.  Unlike the benign merfolk of most editions of D&D, the Bestiary’s merfolk are reclusive, insular, and prone to violence—much closer to the fickle temptresses and shipwreckers of legend than Disney’s Ariel.

To me, one of the most interesting things about merfolk is the range of bonus languages they speak.  This list (“Aboleth, Aklo, Draconic, Elven, Sahuagin, and Sylvan,” per the Bestiary) suggests a vast array of subcultures, influences, and threats found under the sea.  Merfolk speaking Aboleth or Aklo might be in thrall to dark powers; those speaking Sylvan might be river spirits or have ties to Faerie or the First World; those speaking Draconic might be vassals of a great dragon empire or fierce drake-hating knights, etc.  PCs could soon learn that the people of the sea are no less unified than the races of humanity, and a party that is a hero to one merfolk shoal may find themselves the bitter enemies of another in no time.

A capricious lorelei (a river mermaid specializing in enchantment spells or bardic charms) can be viewed from the Severed Bridge.  She purposefully tries to attract swimmers to her so they might run afoul of the river’s many tatzylwyrms.  She herself is a prisoner, though, bound by a witch who stole a lock of her hair.  If provided proof the witch is dead, she will leave the bridge and its swimmers in peace.

Sailors used to the benevolent merfolk of the Starry Sea are unprepared for the orange-finned merfolk of the Southern Ocean.  These Aklo-speaking merfolk worship demons and qlippoths, coaxing coral reefs to grow into the sigils of their demonic patrons.  Even their dolphins are strange—druids will note their pronounced underbites and their tendency to click and whistle their whalespeech in an odd, affectless manner.

Merfolk samurai needing aid appeal to the courts of the Kingdom of Florin, whose queen (thanks to her family’s ties to an undine several generations back) is technically the Empress of Two Oceans.  The adventurers she sends to accompany the envoys back may have to contend with rival merfolk, adaro raiding parties, and a riddling sea dragon.

Pathfinder Bestiary 204

More on merfolk is of course sprinkled through a number of products; I’m partial to PC3 The Sea People by Jim Bambra from D&D’s Creature Crucible series.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The denizens of Leng may be good traders, but sometimes you want to bargain with someone who doesn’t hail from a nightmare realm.  Thankfully there’s the mercanes.  Originally born as the arcane in 2e AD&D’s Spelljammer, and rechristened as mercane in 3.0/3.5, Pathfinder’s mercanes have gained some eyes and lost some fingers (and the secret chest ability is a classy touch).

First and foremost, mercanes are just plain useful—when players want to do magical item shopping that threatens to warp the economy of the local city, mercanes are a plausible way to keep them happy.  They’re also an easy jumping off point for planar or interplanetary adventures and plot hooks.

But the real delight is deciding how you want to play your mercanes.  In Spelljammer (if I’m recalling right) they were a secretive, unctuous lot who held a monopoly over spelljamming technology.  They’d also work well as fantasy Ferengi for all you Quark fans out there, or as an interstellar crime family (or families, possibly dueling) à la The Godfather.  Since Pathfinder’s daemons are far less mercenary than (A)D&D’s yugoloths, mercanes might step in as the arms dealers of your campaign’s Blood War—picture Robert Downey, Jr., in Iron Man, sans the moral awakening.

In other words, have fun.

To slay a fiendish dragon, adventurers need a specific enchanted sword.  But the noble djinni who owns it is not inclined to part with it.  After their failed audience, a mercane approaches the adventurers.  He can get the sword, he claims, provided they retrieve a certain item or two for him.  Of course, getting the item will not be easy, especially since an azer thief-taker in service to an efreeti “accidentally” overheard the whole exchange.

Mercanes and denizens of Leng seem to almost studiously avoid each other.  But the movement of strange living books of magic bound in darkmantle skins and rubies flooding the world’s markets seem to indicate a brewing trade war.

Mercanes are reliable brokers, but not always honest ones.  (Though they may be lawful neutral, a contract isn’t a contract unless it’s signed, and local laws may of course vary by jurisdiction.)  When adventurers win an auction despite a mercane’s attempt to rig it, he calls on his xorn mercenaries and a wyrwood bodyguard (see the Advanced Race Guide) to catch them before they make it to the safety of their planeskimmer.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 188

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Deacons of the Horseman of Famine, meladaemons are the jackal-headed daemons of starvation and thirst.  This may make them among the most horrible creatures in existence, even compared to other daemonic deacons.  War can inspire acts of valor and is sometimes necessary to fight evil; combating Pestilence inspires acts of charity and spurs scientific advancement; and even Death by old age is a natural part of life.  But Famine is just suffering compounded by waste and deprivation, and it diminishes all it touches. Even meladaemons’ special abilities and spell-like abilities enervate and drag out suffering, just for getting near the creatures!

Meladaemon-focused adventures are fun because (similar to leukodaemons), they offer lots of opportunities for detective work and escalating linked encounters: A starving village leads to spoiled feed leads to a mercenary saboteur leads to a dark priesthood leads to a daemon-summoning ceremony leads to a soul feast leads to…you get the idea.  The good news for PCs: meladaemons work alone if possible, or only with other meladaemons.  And since they kill their victims slowly, PCs have a better than average chance of saving the innocent before it’s too late…

Determined to avoid a foretold plague, a pharaoh orders stockpiles of preserved food and grains for seven years.  Over time, though, what were reasonable set-asides become onerous levies.  A meladaemon has infiltrated the priesthood responsible for maintaining the granaries, and is rotting the stores even as it starves the populace.

Dark cultists answering to a cabal of meladaemons have blighted fields, diverted rivers, and slaughtered livestock throughout the nation.  The country’s benign servitors are overwhelmed (or were murdered by the cultists), meaning that adventurers looking to alleviate the suffering must join with the devil-worshipping Cerberian Legion, whose strength, wealth, and skill at logistics come at the cost of freedom and mercy.  Meanwhile, starvation has also caused a dormant magical curse to activate, and many of the nation’s nobles have turned into wereboars barely able to control their hunger or bloodlust.

Meladaemons rarely work with other creatures.  But Curvus the Bone-Gnawer has fallen into an unholy infatuation with a wendigo known as Windcurse.  The meladaemon brings hunger and disease to the longhouses of the snowy North, leaving the inhabitants weak, desperate, and vulnerable to the call of his wendigo lover.  When the pair has devoured or transformed the souls of the entire village, they move on to the next one, leaving only empty settlements, haunts, and new ghouls and wendigos behind.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 69

Oh hey!  Let’s talk about my weekend.

1) I did not see The Hobbit.  Still haven’t.  Because Friday my friends Eric and Josh decided to go to a matinee.  Which is understandable—Eric was in town from Georgia and only had so much time, and I was at work—but man, how badly did I want to go to a movie about bearded warriors with this guy

2) Radio show.  Yeah, I posted pretty late yesterday, but whatever, go listen.  It was good, I promise.

3) Went to the Christmas Revels in D.C.  This is a musical celebration of the solstice in general and Christmas in particular that happens every year, and each year gets its own culture and time period theme (American Appalachia, Renaissance Italy, Victorian England, Middle East in the Middle Ages, etc.).  It’s fantastic—not just because of the show itself, but because of each year’s ridiculously well researched program.  There’s always some nugget in there that I can take to the game, even if it’s just a cool vocab word.  This year’s was “waits.”

Of course, the downside to #2 and #3 meant that I was missing…

4) The first-ever Mythmoot, a Tolkien conference in my own backyard!  Which meant that I missed yet another (private!) screening of The Hobbit (in 3D!) and talks by Tolkien fans and luminaries, including Corey Olsen, “The Tolkien Professor” himself. 

But!  I had an in: Because Prof. Olsen went to my college only a few years ahead of me, our mutual friend (and successful Middle-earth cookbook Kickstarter) Heath got us together for drinks at around midnight.  So even though I missed the con, I still got to have an excellent time with an excellent scholar.

Final note: In order to make it to the above rendezvous, I had to escape a party in Arlington, VA.  (I told you it was a busy weekend.)   And that meant uttering the single dorkiest sentence spoken on Earth ever.  Worse yet, it was uttered to a room full of attractive single female EPA employees who were trying to get my to eat their homemade desserts.  Dear readers, I hope you all will learn from my mistake, and never find yourself saying to a similar audience the following:

“I’m sorry, I can’t eat any more of your delicious pie; I have to go to a Tolkien conference after-party.”

*facepalm*  Yes, that really came out of my mouth. Sigh…

Monday, December 17, 2012

Megaloceros & Megatherium

And we’re back!  Thanks for bearing with me this past week, hooray for warranties honored and hard drives fixed, and hello to you new followers!

The megatherium is one of the ultimate symbols of the Age of Mammals—nothing you know about modern sloths can really prepare you for the size and power of the giant sloth.  (Even just the bones in the Smithsonian seem oversized and gargantuan.)  And the megaloceros and man actually cohabitated in the Ice Age, so these beasts are perfect as the mighty stags of legend in your game.

Typically peaceful, megatheriums grow dangerous during mating season.  Vanaras know this and will lure suspicious intruders into their midst, counting on the beasts to stun them with their Awesome Blows.

Megaloceroses are found in pockets throughout the North.  In Greenest Ire only a few remain in the Kings’ Woods and poaching is punishable by death.  Nevertheless, the prices paid by Turmish lords for their racks inspires some foolhardy peasants to recklessness.  White king stags are known in the Near Forest; gnomes regard them as brothers.  Big game hunters chase the mighty great elks of the taiga in Firsa, but few come back alive; those hunters not gored by the elk themselves are finished off by the neanderthals who ride them.

The monstropolis of Kimerax is legendary for its diverse population of humanoids—monstrous and otherwise—and its towering blocks of tenements.  When the Spurfoot halfling tribe requested to settle there, the hobgoblin hierarch assented, provided they be of use to the city—as lamplighters.  His mirth at the diminutive halflings’ expense was stifled when the halflings leapt at the opportunity, riding through the streets on their giant sloth steeds bringing light to even the poorest districts.  Now the halflings are honored servants of the city, and their riders have earned acclaim not only as lamplighters and town criers, but also for riding their megatheriums into battle in the city’s defense.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 187

I’m sure there are some disappointed megalania fans out there (I know, right; how could you not be?) but since it’s filed with basilosaurus we’ll have to wait till we swing round the alphabet.

After my snark a week or so ago, Will comes to the defense of the bull-like gorgon here.

Radio show! With a Los Campesinos! Christmas tune, even more new Dungeonesse, Stars, Nite Jewel doing Michael Jackson, and a Rostam mashup I can’t get enough of.  Full disclosure: The headphone jack was busted this week, so volume levels are a bit all over the place. But the music was choice. Download it!

(Music start about 5:30 into the file. If the feed skips, load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes. Link good till Friday, 12/21, at midnight.)

And stay tuned for next week’s The New Indie Christmas!

Friday, December 7, 2012


First of all, The Daily Bestiary is going on vacation for a week!  Which is not something I wanted (if anything, I should have taken off this week during my staycation)…but my computer died this afternoon and I’m not sure when/if I’m getting it back.  So I’m going to play it safe and hunker down next week and let the mental juices stew a bit.

On to the medusa!  Named after the famous gorgon (don’t even get me started), medusas need no introduction.  Over time, they’ve also gotten progressively more scaly and fight-y as well (the 3.5 medusa’s favored class was ranger, if I remember correctly).  Jason Nelson goes deeper into their lives in Mythical Monsters Revisited and does a good job of pointing out the two general strains of medusa villain (either monsters in the wilderness or secret urban terrors) and a great job of exploring the implications of their gazes on the land around them and the allies they choose. 

I’ve tried to tweak the above slightly (we have a not-so-secret urban terror, for instance, and a barbarian rather than a ranger), but even as I sit here typing I can see other options too—as bringers of divine retribution, perhaps, or as cursed elves or nymphs, or as a race with closer ties to the hags or serpentfolk.  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts as well.

Kalita the Veiled Beauty lives openly in Ingress, a testimony to that city’s famous policy of “An Open Gate for Those of Peace”—and in fact, the medusa sorceress’s presence is often requested at city functions in order to highlight just that fact.  She is also an acclaimed painter, with her work fetching high prices at auction (despite more than a few jokes about her “keen eye”).  However, Kalita’s appetites—for pleasure, for wealth, for adoration—are as strong as most medusas, and more than one of her models has become her drugged or charmed plaything, only to then be fed to (or petrified and dropped from a great height by) her secret retinue of gargoyle servants.

A being of hate and rage, loathing her gaze and all who cannot meet it, Deathadder lives deep in the woods of Üven in a hedge maze of her own devising.  If any intrude, she has the woodcraft of a druid and the rage of a barbarian to teach interlopers the error of disturbing her.  Sadly for her, the medusa blight follows her (her gaze petrifying even insects, birds, and other pollinators), so her maze must grow with every season as its center withers.

The underworld of Charingdon is controlled by a strange partnership, the medusa Amethyst and the ghoul Baron Slivey.  Amethyst lives in disguise in the city itself, handling thievery, extortion, and espionage, while Baron Spivey and his servitors occupy the caves below, acting as fences, smugglers, kidnappers, and hit men.  Amethyst allows the vain ghoul his lordly playacting because it serves her purposes—his subterranean “palace” is a convenient place to dispose of her petrified victims, and he is always thrilled to see another “supplicant” line the gallery of his “court.”

Pathfinder Bestiary 201

By the way, if you’re looking for the mastodon, we covered it way back here.

See you in a week!  And if you want some music, a new show will go up after noon tomorrow here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


With a name that recalls both stern angels and Hindu storm deities, you know maruts mean business. And since their business is the slaying of those who have lived too long, PCs have a better-than-average chance of running into them.

Of course, the question is: What makes a marut take action?  Are all the ancient wizards and liches out there just at the back of a very long list, and the maruts just haven’t gotten around to them yet?  Or are maruts saved for particularly egregious cases—say, 10 lifetimes lived or the sacrifice of an entire town to power the magic?  Or do you have to cross some threshold—perhaps enter or leave the Outer Planes—to tweak the maruts’ alarms?  And does killing a marut earn you a pardon, or will another activate to take its place?

For the GM, what’s fun about maruts are the spell-like abilities and the cinematics: plenty of spells to help the marut find its quarry (true seeing, locate creature), make a grand entrance (air walk, dimension door, plane shift), prevent escape (wall of force), and then fists of thunder and lightning and spells that deal a lot of collateral damage (mass inflict light wounds, earthquake).  Maruts are your chance to play the avenging angel (or rather, inevitable) to the hilt.

Two displaced nations divided by faith and race have squabbled over the same holy ground for centuries.  Now a peace treaty that could end the violence is about to be signed.  Neither side fully trusts the other, of course, but both sides trust the saintly half-elven prelate overseeing the accords.  Unfortunately, the prelate has cheated death for generations in his pursuit of this very settlement  A marut has arrived to slay him, and if it succeeds the treaty will never be signed.

The rise of the samsaran race has caused a dispute over jurisdiction in the Court of Gold and Bone.  A splinter group of maruts has decided that the blue-skinned reincarnating people are in violation, and their members begin to execute samsarans one by one.  The Court’s remaining axiomite and inevitable officers need mortal agents to subdue and reprogram or kill the faulty maruts.

Fleg is a legendary arcane trickster who once even managed to snatch and depower the phylactery of a lich—but in doing so, tainted her own soul with the lich’s essence.  Now a marut with orders to slay the lich has both the undead and her in its sights, considering her a vessel for the bone wizard’s evil.  Fleg needs bodyguards to shield her from both the vengeful lich and the implacable inevitable while she pulls off one last score: rather than fight her sentence, she’s going to solve her marut problem by stealing a little divine immortality—after all, goddesses don’t come with an expiration date.

—Pathfinder Bestiary 2 166

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marsh Giant

The full scoop on marsh giants can be found in Giants Revisited courtesy of Ray Vallese.  Likely a degenerate offshoot of the hill giant race, they have further devolved through inbreeding and traffic with dark aquatic powers, creating the deformed brineborn.

Marsh giants are a nice step up when you want a swamp adventure that doesn’t involve lizardfolk or boggards.  They’re also a bridge between normal humanoid- and giant-killing adventurers to more menacing ones involving demons, qlippoths, or even the Old Ones.

Vodyanoi dockworkers report with alarm that two gangs of marsh giants have burst up from the silted waters of the Blithe River, and they are hooking passersby on the docks and the Promenade with their gaffs in a kind of bleak, burbling harvest.  The responding adventurers reputations with the common folk and the nobility will depend on how fast they stop the giants and which community they had first.

An anthropologist wants to study marsh giants; his purported aim is a monograph that examines how an inbred, cannibalistic society can nevertheless survive.  In truth, he is a blood mage who believe that eating the heart of marsh giant will allow him to commune with their dark master, the Sleeper Below the Waves.

A secretive tribe of marsh giants, many of them brineborn, protects a thoroughly corpulent and fecund queen known as the Brinemother.  Little more than a birthing vessel for her dark patron, the bloated being can barely move or defend herself beyond her spell-like abilities.  If struck in the belly with a slashing or piercing weapon she bursts, letting loose swarms of swampy abominations (likely advanced skum, fiendish gripplis, intelligent oozes, or worse)—her last demon-touched brood.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 129

Something else I forget to tell you about this weekend that’s conveniently both Pathfinder- and music-related: I went for a walk and stumbled upon a) a Christmas parade, and b) three members of my old gaming group, who were partying on the front porch of their friend’s house watching the spectacle.  So it was good to catch up with them; meanwhile, said friend looked familiar and it turned out to be…Nolen of Double Dagger! 

For those not up on the post-punk/hardcore scene (trust me, I’m certainly not!) Double Dagger was beloved act from these parts that broke up last year.  So let’s show Nolen some love.  I heartily recommend checking out “The Lie/The Truth” from More, which sadly doesn’t have a good YouTube video, so here’s their “No Allies” instead.