Friday, March 29, 2013


Lots of monsters have fear effects to terrorize PCs.  What makes the peryton awesome is that its shadow mark will terrify the players.  The first time you say, “So…as it passes over you, the beast’s shadow transforms to match…yours,” should be a chair-ruining moment for your players.

Of course, even without the shadow mark, a half-stag/half-eagle creature that eats hearts is plenty scary enough.

Also, in myth (sorta, see below) perytons originally come from Atlantis.  So in your campaign, they might have a link to Azlant or some other sunken land.  And since they speak Common, they may even have oral histories or valuable information about these places…provided you can cajole one into speaking with you.  A few fresh hearts should do the trick.

Adventurers find themselves surrounded by dire wolves when a shadow passes overhead.  Suddenly the wolves vanish into the forest, but the party’s relief is short-lived as a pair of perytons stoops to attack.

Polar perytons are larger than their southern cousins…and even more deadly, as they fly on the silent wings of snowy owls.  The strange energies of the arctic affect them in other ways, too.  A victim slaughtered and mutilated by such a creature has a higher than likely chance of rising as a zombie, wight, or even the dreaded wendigo due to the trauma and isolation of the death.

An archipelago is famous for being a nesting site for perytons, despite the fact that the beasts’ hunting grounds lie far to the east.  Investigation reveals that the archipelago is actually all that is left of the mountain ranges of Denevair, the Sunken Continent—the perytons’ ancestral home.  Interestingly, these islands lie a good hundred leagues north of scholars’ estimations for Denevair, which means they are likely filled with tombs and treasures as yet unexplored.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 207

Fun fact: the peryton isn’t mythological at all.  It just feels like it.  You go, Jorge Luis Borges!

Also, I’m in Boston for the weekend.  Specifically, Dorchester.  My friends have accents so thick you couldn’t cut them with cold iron.  I should have typed this without any Rs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Whenever we talk about celestial creatures and adventure seeds, there’s always this tension between “Will they be so good and helpful there is no reason for the party to ever fight them?” and “Will they be so snooty and removed there is no reason for the party to ever engage with them?”

That’s not a problem with peris.  Peris are the descendants of fallen angels.  Players can get behind that.  Peris are good, but not near-perfect the way angels are.  Players can get behind that. Peris seek redemption.  Players can get behind that.

And most importantly, peris like fire.  A lot.  Fiery wings!  Fiery flame jumps, whirlwind dances, and a host of spells.  Cleansing fire it may be, but still: BOOM.  Adventurers like BOOM.  They’re going to love peris.

So if your PCs need a hand fighting some divs or oni or other fiends, a peri will likely be happy to help.  And on the other hand, if a peri gives way to the same evil that defeated her forebears, PCs can have a grand time rescuing her—or putting her down—in order to save her soul.

Captured by a foul div, the peri Jazmina has been trapped deep below the earth in a cage of cold iron, to be taunted and tormented by fiendish ropers.  Sadly, rescue won’t help—her mind snapped long ago, and if released she will fight even her saviors to the death.

Though they do not speak of it to outsiders, Clan MacTeague features a number of emberkin, all of whom trace their line back to the peri Caerdwilla, whose mother Una the True fell and become the Bog Crone of Lies.  If adventurers cross swords with any of these flame-haired children (ginger, that is, aside from one who has actual flaming hair), Caerdwilla is sure to cross scimitars with them.

Adventurers hired to guard a priceless artifact are unaware that they are actually helping an efreeti transfer a sacred marid relic to an asura to be destroyed.  When a peri comes to claim the artifact, will she be able to persuade them of the rightness of her cause, or will the adventurers’ oaths of service (or their brash arrogance and bloodthirstiness) rule the day?

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 216

I claim to be all about story and lore and theme…but ask me about my flying eldritch knight who once took out an ulgurstasta almost single-handedly.  BOOM.

Also, if you like your aasimar peri-flavored, check out Blood of Angels, which has stats for several variant aasimars, including the peri-blooded emberkin.

Figures that yesterday I groused about Blogger, only to have Blogger save the day when Tumblr jettisoned all my formatting tools.  Grrrr…  Bear with me as I try to muddle through.  So far today it’s behaving, though…

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Whenever I talk about non-Western European monsters that make great additions to any game setting, pretty much the first place I go is the penanggalen. Because penanggalens are awesome.

I mean, a vampiric floating head trailing viscera that leaves its body behind to hunt—what’s not to like?  And let’s not forget a host of special abilities, including a wither attack, disease, and blood drain.  They can walk around in the day without harm, parading themselves right under the PCs’ noses.  And since it's a template creature you can advance it to whatever power level you like, rivaling even a lich.

Penanggalens are also mostly female.  (Which might offer PCs a clue as to suspects…or might throw them off, if that particular penanggalen is male.)  In myth they target pregnant women and young children, and even in the game female characters have more to fear, as they risk being turned into manananggal spawn.

But most important of all: penanggalens are made, not born.  So within every evil blood-sucking flying head is a brain that made a choice

A vintner and amateur alchemist is actually a rare male penanggalen.  His many potions, tub, and vats conceal the cask of vinegar he soaks in, allowing him to hide in plain sight.

“Though shalt not suffer a lich to live.”  The Sisterhood of the Risen Night is a loose network of penanggalen witches, oracles, and sorcerers pursuing three interrelated goals.  Born in an oppressively male-dominated country, they work to spread the mysteries of their respective arts in defiance of the ruling wizard-priests.  Second, they embrace the penanggalen ritual in order to gain both temporal power and possibly even immortality in their hybrid living/undead state.  Achieving this second goal allows them to pursue their final and most serious task: ensuring no wizard-priest successfully achieves lichdom, and hunting down those that succeeded in previous generations.  While they may use and even ally with more noble adventurers from time to time, these witches do not act out of kindness—the powers they follow are just as dark and even more unknowable than the wizard-priests’.

The deaths of women and children shock a dwarven settlement.  These, combined with nightmarish howls in the dead of night, spark rumors of banshees, which in turn threatens to undermine relations with a nearby wood elf tribe.  The clanpriests fear a vampire, and this puts the sunlight-fearing Gleador Clan under suspicion.  Only when a manananggal is spotted flying through the guildhall galleries does anyone suspect a penanggalen.  And wouldn’t you know it: Karra Coppernik has recently shuttered her family’s silver mine for reasons unknown…

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 216–217

If you can, search out a copy of Dragon Magazine #222 for Paul F. Culotta’s “The Necrology of the Penanggalan,” for a great look at a female paladin struggling with one of these beasts.  It’s a haunting installment I still recall 18 years(!) later.

(Man this blog has been paladin-centric lately.  Sorry about that—just coincidence.  Fortunately, reader Fortooate is happy to provide some balance with tips on some neutral/evil uses for pegasi…)

Attention readers who use Safari to view the Blogger version of this blog: I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again—Blogger, Safari, and MS Word hate each other.  I apologize if you have a bad reading experience or are missing posts (like the kappa and kangaroo). I am not talented enough to fix whatever is wrong.

*forehead slam*  *forehead slam*  *forehead slam*  I knew there was something I forgot to tell you yesterday about pegasi!  Bruce Heard is using his blog to flesh out D&D’s Known World/Mystara, especially the Alphatian Empire.  And recently he’s been looking at the Kingdom of Ar, also known as Floating Ar—a very pegasus-friendly place.  He even whipped up some celestial pegasi you could easily use as champions/paragons in your game.  Check it out!  Now, where was I?  Oh, right.  *forehead slam*

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I’m pretty sure that’s a herd of pegasi right there.  Or is it a flock…?

(Yes, another pic from Otakon 2012.)

Pegasi have it rough in gaming.  Because as mounts go, they have their limits—no claws, no breath weapon, no spells, not even a unicorn’s gore attack.  Bellerophon may have ridden Pegasus to attack the Chimera of myth, but in the game a CR 7, 6d8-breathing chimera only needs two good rounds to demolish the 34 hp steed.  Any PC that wants to do serious dogfighting is going to look for a griffon, dragon, or even a simple hippogriff first.

That’s why I’m glad Pathfinder tries to put some magic back into the pegasus.  First there’s its detect good/evil ability—always a nice touch.  Then there’s the pegasus champion—perfect flight maneuverability and fire resistance 10 go a long way toward making it a useful mount, and immunity to petrification is a nice mythic touch.

But I think a lot of what’s needed for a great pegasus encounter comes from the GM.  Make it happen early in the campaign, while flight is still a rare and precious thing, and before the monsters that PCs are likely to encounter can just swat the winged horses out of the sky.  Make the attempt to befriend them an actual role-playing encounter (with XP rewards to back it up), not just a series of Diplomacy checks.  Make riding one feel like an accomplishment and a reward.  And even at higher levels, perhaps earning a pegasus’s services can allow parties a certain benefit—access to a certain hidden cliff face, secret air deity temple, cloud castle, and the like—that no griffon or even a dragon could give them.

Also, I am totally in favor of using pegasi as a bit of a moral lesson for neutral and especially evil PCs.  I make no secret of the fact that I like my games heroic in flavor…but even setting that aside, too often non-good PCs are just an excuse for “Let’s see what I can get away with” play—for instance, hired mercenaries plus negative channeling combined with death knell being a typical egregious example.  Neutrality in these cases ceases to be about role-playing or conviction; it’s about metagame convenience.  So I’m totally in favor of letting pegasi be conveniences in the service of good.  Let good PCs skip a few harmful levels, get to the sacred spring early, or otherwise get an advantage their nongood counterparts don’t.  Choices have consequences.  And for a game that spends a lot of time spelling out exactly what happens when a paladin or cleric falls, we don’t spend enough time talking about how to reward them for being stand-up and righteous dudes.  A ride on a pegasus isn’t a bad start.

Then again, obviously one easy way to tweak your pegasi is to tweak their alignments (and the alignments they can detect).  I remember as a young D&D player borrowing the AD&D Desert of Desolation compilation, and my mouth forming an O of shock when I ran across the pegasi-riding dervishes in that book…

A cataclysm rends the land of Pennarin in twain.  Fresh from having rescued an elven princess, a party of adventurers finds themselves on the wrong side of a brand-new canyon and a hobgoblin army.  The elves suggest securing the services of a rumored herd of pegasi on the far side of the forest, but even they are not sure where the magical beasts might be found.

Through her priestesses, the goddess of zephyrs and fortune, Zephenia, offers a boon to those who do her will: a magical ribbon that can transform into a bridle fit for riding a pegasus champion.  Able to hover in place like a hummingbird and turn on a ducat, these steeds are invaluable allies for spellcasters and knights alike.  But the bridle does not compel the pegasus’s obedience—that must still be earned.

The shaggy pegasi of Annwl respond only to druids, barbarians, and green knights; they scorn to carry those of extreme (non-neutral) alignments or who stink of too much metal.  The fierce flying destriers of Marduk carry only the lawful, especially cavaliers and Knights of the Lash.  The pegasi of the Blasted Lands only consent to carry creatures that bear the same taint as themselves.  More than one well-meaning samurai or paladin, out of supplies and surrounded by enemies, has received an aerial rescue from one of these beasts, and only too late realize what it signifies—that the taint of the Blasted Land has claimed them.

Pathfinder Bestiary 225

Shame on me.  I forgot to tell you that Demiurge totally came through on Friday’s request for douchey trachodons!  Man, those guys look like jerks.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Originally gnomish creatures from Scottish mythology, pechs in fantasy role-playing are bridges between the worlds of fey and earth.  Pechs do not wish to be found by adventurers, but if they are they will likely give at least some aid, and their skill with stone is undeniable.

Since pechs are fey, one imagines they might have ties to the original gnomes and svirfneblin, back when these humanoids were still fey as well.  (And it’s interesting that pechs seem to be described as more stable and grounded (pun only kind of intended) and less volatile than the deep gnomes are.)  They also have sad ties to the derros—pechs irrevocably corrupted over the centuries (presumably by strange radiations, torture, war, slavery, sun poisoning, other races’ experiments, or any combination of the above).  And of course, who knows if the pechs’ original masters will ever return?

The timely aid of some pechs saves a party of adventurers from a rock troll.  They offer the party hospitality for the night.  The party may return once more, but if they attempt to reach the pechs a third time they find the cavern entrance smoothed over like it never existed.

Serpentfolk have enslaved a tribe of pechs.  Normally the pechs’ skill with stone magic would have aided their escape, but the snake-men have secured some relic the pechs revere too much to abandon.  They need a rescue, and this will not be easy—especially because some of these serpentfolk have gone rogue and are working with a seugathi.

Pechs are on the move across the deep realms—sometimes in small gangs, sometimes gathering into loose tribes and caravans.  As nomadism is rare in the Lands Below, this causes rumor and speculation to fly ahead of them.  One rumor mentions a fey Queen of Beryl and Echoes.  Another is full of portent: That one of the Old Masters has returned.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 206

I like Scott Purdy’s pech illustration in the Bestiary 2, even if the head-candle makes little sense—in folklore, candles on the head is a kobold thing, and in the game pechs have darkvision…though I guess it helps their low-light vision.

Responding to the paracletus entry, A.A. asked:

Something I was wondering, why don't you do any WotC/TSR monsters on this blog Mr. Patch? Is it for copyright reasons? Because you're more into Pathfinder now?

Despite what you think of 4e, there's a lot of great new monsters in it, like Banderhobbs, Arcanians, Apocalypse Spells, Dreadbreath Dracoliches, Flesh Cults, Offalians, Unrisen and more!

Hey A.A.!  Thanks for writing.  I have a bunch of answers for you.

The cop-out answer is that most of the monsters I reference are WotC/TSR monsters as well as Pathfinder ones.  This blog is chock full of blue dragons, gelatinous cubes, otyughs, etc., etc. that have been around since the ’70s.

The more serious answer you’ve already mentioned: I just don’t know 4e.  I hear it’s great for new players, but it’s a foreign system to me.  Like a lot of people, in 2008 I just wasn’t ready to make the switch away from 3.5.  So when the creators and writers I followed most passionately went with Pathfinder, so did I.

Then there’s the issue of hours in the day.  When I envisioned this blog, it was just going to be three adventure seeds written during my lunch.  But then I started putting in little intros and links to other sources and some of my own personal musings and shout-outs and radio show posts and…you get the idea.  So now…let’s just say my lunch break isn’t sufficient.  Focusing on Pathfinder monsters at least gives the blog a certain specific focus and tone…but even with that limit it’s still going to be a three-year project.  That’s on top of my way-more-than-full-time job.  Adding 4e D&D monsters would kill me.

(As it is, I’m three months late replying to some really important messages—to the gentleman who caught me during my January couch-surfing through Europe, I haven’t forgotten you; I’ve just been in a work hole and I apologize.  I also completely understand if you’ve given me up for hopelessly rude and/or dead.)

So I hate disappointing you, A.A.  But hey, it’s a small world.  If you like what I’m doing and want me to do it for D&D monsters, tell Wizards!  (Seriously.  You never know.  Word of mouth is a powerful thing.)

And you could always do your own blog about 4e monsters.  If you do, tell us!  I want to see your banderhobbs…

Finally, thanks for the birthday wishes, especially alphacop and justjingles!

This weekend was my birthday, and that meant a birthday-themed edition of The New Indie Canon.  This is one you might want for keeps, because it was pretty nuts: new Postal Service, new Vampire Weekend, and a mashup from the Hood Internet of Justin Timberlake’s new “Suit & Tie” with some Daft Punk.  Download it.

(Usual drill applies: If the feed skips, let load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes. Link good till Friday, 3/29, at midnight.  Also, the Less Than Jake song cut off at the end was “Look What Happened.” Sadly though, the only copies I can find online to link you reference a slower, less upbeat track than the version I have.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Parasaurolophus & Tylosaurus

The parasaurolophus is one of the most distinctive species of duck-billed dinosaurs.  They will mostly leave PCs alone, but they make good companions and even mounts for certain exotic characters.  The tylosaurus is a terrifying marine mosasaur PCs would do well to avoid.

A warren of elite troglodytes appears to have a back entrance, hidden among the rocks of a subterranean beach.  Parties that attempt this route will find it guarded by a tylosaurus that surges out of the water to attack. 

The services of a witch can be attained by bringing her a dozen parasaurolophus eggs—preferably without harming the breeding stock.  To fetch them, adventurers must fend off the angry mother dinosaurs and the egg-eating wyverns that come to feast on the nests.

A saurian shaman (see Ultimate Magic) and her tylosaurus companion terrorize local villages away from a sacred spring.  Despite her aggressive demeanor, her cause is noble: she guards the life of a dying nixie queen.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 91

GMs beware—since tylosaurus has a land speed (and is no slower than a dwarf), your players will try to convince you that their tylosaurus companion can go into the dungeon.  They weighed 30,000 pounds.  The answer is no. 

Since parasaurolophus is a pretty standard hadrosaur, you an also use its stats for the lambeosaurus, corythosaurus, maiasaura, and saurolophus.  But not the trachodon.  That guy is taxonomically suspect. 

Also, I hear he’s a douche.

Oh!  Wikipedia tells me, “The family Hadrosauridae was first used by Edward Drinker Cope in 1869.”  I may have mentioned this before, but one of my best friends lived for several years in Cope’s old house in Philly.  There was a sign outside and everything.  I pretty much lost my s--- with excitement every time I visited.

Man, now all I want to do is search the Internet for pictures of douchey trachodons.  Seen any?

Oh (part deux)!  Tomorrow is my birthday.  Since it’s also my radio show (10–noon, U.S. Eastern), why not celebrate with your ears?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Most aeons are focused on big-picture concepts: birth, death, time, creation, destruction, etc.  Paracletuses take much more of an interest in human-sized concepts—especially emotion, logic, and the interplay between the two—and, fortunately, their power is also several orders of magnitude weaker.

The following adventure seeds use paracletuses in three ways: as comic relief, as one-off adversaries, and as an early foreshadowing that the campaign will tackle bigger themes.

An adventuring party’s charismatic barbarian (and his rages) attracts the attention of an emotion-studying paracletus.  The barbarian is delighted to have his own “familiar”…at least at first, while the emotions the paracletus broadcasts are still positive.

A pair of paracletuses finds a derro’s investigation into the nature of pain (and the attending emotional responses it engenders) complements their own.  Should adventurers interrupt his research, the aeons will defend him in order that their research project not be interrupted.

More and more samsarans are attracting the scrutiny of paracletuses—many serving as familiars, others observing less obtrusively (or more, depending on the aeon).  They seem to be interested in how the cycle of reincarnation affects the reasoning and hearts of these serene humanoids.  More ominously, some of these paracletuses are also interested in seeing what happens when samsarans fail—in their clerical duties, in their oaths as paladins and samurai, or even when they jeopardize their place on the cycle of reincarnation itself.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 11

I don’t have a lot of time to explore other folk’s gaming blogs, but a little Googling turned up this encounter seed on what looks to be a very accomplished blog.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pale Stranger

If you’re going to add firearms to the game, adding pistol-toting undead gunslingers is not a bad next step.  Death is often referred to as the Pale Rider, and the image of an undead or otherworldly implacable gunman is one that pops up in Western fantasy/horror from time to time.

The pale stranger is interesting enough because of his weapons.  But there’s also the question of why he kills—to avenge a wrong?  Revenge on those who betrayed him?  Hate for all living things?  Or just because the life of a gunman has a call more powerful even than death?  Whatever the reason, the process corrupts— once he returns as a pale stranger, even the lawful good sheriff doesn’t stop with the bad guys.  Now a thoroughly neutral evil creature, he keeps shooting long after his quarry is no more…

Also, how long have firearms been in your campaign?  Pale strangers might be rare, or there might only be one in the world: the first man ever killed by a gun.

One final note: Think cinematic when you use the undead’s stranger’s shot ability.  Whether it’s a sniper’s shot from ambush, or a showdown from across the town square, it should be terrifying.

Obviously, cowboys and badlands are the first place my mind goes to when thinking about the pale stranger…but let’s see if we can’t set up other archetypes as well, shall we?

Once a man of noble character, a pale rider rides across the land with his former elf sidekick, now a bone-arrow-firing baykok.  They used to be lycanthrope hunters—the pale stranger’s calling card is still his silver bullets—but now they hunt any gunslinger, ranger, bounty hunter, oath-breaker, or boaster who catches their eye (any character above sixth level).

Regiford DuMotley was a musketeer in the Pontiff’s Guards before his death.  Now he hunts any members of the halbardier order that slew him, as well as any servants of the corrupt pontiff, in whose service DuMotley tainted his soul.

An adventuring party comes across a wrecked voidship marooned on an asteroid and strips it for salvage.  In the hold, they find a beautiful pistol with a handle of dragon’s ivory.  But the simple act of touching the pistol unleashes its curse.  Somewhere, orbiting a far distant planet, a pale stranger corsair awakens from torpor at the feel of his weapon tugging at his black soul.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 214

Speaking of cinematic, one of my GMs once did a cutscene—he literally said that, “Cutscene: A dark tower…” etc.—to show us the villain plotting against us.  It was an interesting technique for a tabletop RPG session, though not one that appealed to me in that instance.  But as a way of introducing the pale stranger…?  I dunno, that might be pretty cool.

In the real world, spinosauruses were big, but frail. They were skinny and lightweight for their size, and probably ate mostly fish. I was hoping that Paizo would make a more accurate spinosaur, but no, they had to go with the JPIII monstrosity. Ah well

And speaking of bears, regarding the owlbear filbypott notes:

Funny how we accept griffins, hippogriffs, sphinxes, manticores, and even chimeras without a second thought, but owlbears are a running joke. Tradition is a funny thing.

He’s right…and his list illuminates something else: The problem may be the name itself.  Owl.  Bear.  It’s not even trying!  “Hippogriff” may simply mean “horse-griffon,” but we don’t hear it that way.  I think if the original Monster Manual had called the owlbear a “strigiursa,” it wouldn’t be a joke…but maybe it also might not have gotten so popular?  Ridicule and fondness sometimes go together: thus our love for the owlbear.  Also, pugs.

Anyway, thanks for keeping me in check, you two.  Also, everyone be extra nice to gash26.  He(?) has to deal with a nightmare the rest of us can only imagine: space owlbears.

I don’t know why I keep going to the RPG subreddit.  It’s an odd place.  I weighed in on some paladin stuff (spoiler alert: I like them; if you have a “paladin” that’s not lawful good, that’s fine, but call it something else; no, the alignment system is not stupid; and no, paladins aren’t really more interesting as templar-like antiheroes).  I also weighed in on the subject of role-playing intelligent monsters.

But here’s something I’m really excited about.  Unfortunately, it’s too long, and when I ran up against the word count limits I effed up by making it four separate posts, rather than making Parts 2–4 comments on the Part 1 thread.  So now Reddit hates me, but I’m still super-proud of it, because I worked super-hard on it.  Presented for your approval: The 18 Most Rewarding 3e D&D Books for Pathfinder GMs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Pairakas are blatantly disease-ridden divs who hide behind beautiful forms, sowing corruption and ruination—first of the morals, then of the body.  Their similarity to night hags and succubi (both in terms of bailiwicks and abilities) may catch even experienced parties off guard…at least until the pairaka attacks them for wearing the color crimson…

The Night Hag is no mean brothel.  Run by a pairaka, it is a veritable pleasure palace that caters to the rich merchants and aristocrats of Baghrev, male and female alike.  A patient creature, she uses her lustful dreams and bubonic plagues sparingly, allowing her patrons’ natural shame, jealousy, and corruption to ruin them over the seasons.  The Night Hag’s name is no accident, either—when her clients are utterly ruined, the div hands them over body and (especially) soul to a night hag confederate.  Recently, though, investigations by nosy clerics and sha’irs are moving up the div’s timetable.

A former marid, Sheliahgosh is now the Festering Tide, a foul pairaka.  She and her undead mermaid servants go from cove to cove, seducing sailors and fishermen who then carry the bubonic plague home to their wives.

A construct adventurer (perhaps a wyrwood from the Advanced Race Guide or a warforged from 3.5’s Eberron setting) is unaffected by the taboo-wallowing dreams that torment its fellows.  The pairaka responsible sends gnoll thugs and a redcap to disassemble what she refers to as “that clockwork upstart.”

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 88

Obviously, in Golarion pairakas are likely to have strong ties to Urgathoa and might ally from time to time with various fiendish powers of disease, lust, and corruption.

I have more stuff to say.  I have a bunch of reader comments to reply to.  But once again, tonight, I must beg off and sleep. And by “sleep,” I mean: go back to work and write radio scripts. 

Saturday’s radio show is triply late: It’s going up on Tuesday instead of Monday, SXSW is over, and so is St. Patrick’s Day. Nevertheless, enjoy an hour of SXSW and other fun tunes, then we switch over to Irish and Celtic rock of all stripes.  Download it.

(Music starts about 30 seconds into the file.  If the feed skips, let load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes.  Link good till Friday, 3/22, at midnight.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pachycephalosaurus & Spinosaurus

Ah, pachycephalosaurus…the football player of the dinosaur kingdom. 

And ah, spinosaurus…the “Sweet Desna’s dinnerware, it’s headed straight for us!” of the dinosaur kingdom.

Actually, in the real world it’s potentially the largest carnivorous land animal ever.  Remember the spinosaurus snapping the neck of the tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park III?  Yeah, that was pretty awesome.  Want to scare your players?  Have one “rescue” them by eating a dragon right in front of them.

While pachycephalosauruses are normally encountered in pairs, they gather in great groups during mating season, where the males butt heads together in a manner reminiscent of elk—only much, much louder.  When a fighter’s brightly polished shield and helm attracts their attention, they think he is another male come to join the joust, and they react accordingly…

Adventurers fleeing a spinosaurus take to the water to escape, only to find that the river is shallow enough for the dinosaur to follow them by walking along the riverbed.  They also find that it can hold its breath for over an hour and a half…

A nation of preserved serpentfolk—mummies, liches, and even some lucky living members roused from torpor—awake to find their once-verdant delta is now the edge of a desert ruled by feeble humans.  Determined to retake the land and irrigate it back to health, they recall from the deep past their favorite war steeds: a pack of spinosauruses.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 79

You can also look up how much a spinosaurus companion costs in Animal Archive.  But if you have to ask…yup, you can’t afford it.

We’ve reached the letter P!  Huzzah.  My 1e and 2e D&D fans…heck, even my 3.0/3.5 fans…please bear with me for the next week or two.  A lot of the P monsters are new names you won’t have seen in the Monster Manual.  But there’s a purple worm on its way, I promise.

Tomorrow, I have more things to say.  Also music.  I promise that, too.  But tonight, sleep.  Cool with you?  Please let that be cool with you.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Owlbears?  Oh sweet Iomedae’s blazing knickers…

If there is ever an Extreme GMing Pentathlon, this is what the events should be:

1) Design a drowless Underdark.
2) Create an order of monks that retains martial arts yet owes nothing to Asian influences.
3) Propose a fantasy monotheistic religion that doesn’t offend anyone
4) Differentiate gnomes from halflings and dwarves without changing any of their essential attributes or falling back on machines.
5) Craft an origin story for owlbears that does not involve any of the following words or their synonyms: “mad,” “wizard,” and “experiment.”

The person who takes gold in that event can sit behind my GM screen any day.

Even the doughty and redoubtable Richard “The Skinsaw Murders” Pett basically throws up his hands while tackling owlbears in Dungeon Denizens Revisited.  “Here are their habitats,” he says.  “Here are some awesome variants,” he says.  “And yes, the wizard did it, in the conservatory, with a vat.”

Look, we’ve talked about the silly origins of D&D monsters before.  If the legendsare true, the owlbear was a badly molded plastic toy.  Gygax took a shine to it.  A monster was born, and we’ve been trying to explain it ever since.

But what the heck, right?  In a world full of wizards, one was bound to breed some awful things, and two of those awful things were bound to breed true.  The owlbear is the result.  It’s CR 4.  It’s nasty.  It’s liable to be guarding orcs.  And if you run into a pack of eight of them, that’s 24 attacks in a round.  The owlbear will never make sense, but it’s enough of a threat that you can claw, claw, bite, and grab any PC who doesn’t pay it enough deference.

A trained owlbear was stolen from its orc handler.  The scarred ranger has tracked the beast all the way to Kerr, where he finds the beast being groomed to fight in the arena.  His options are to hire mercenaries to organize a jailbreak, become a gladiator himself and infiltrate the training grounds, or cause a disturbance at the owlbear’s debut.  He is cunning in the wild but lacks a head for city strategies, and could use some help.  Otherwise, bystanders are bound to be hurt.

Arctic owlbears are notoriously hard to spot in their snow-filled forests.  Thus most sled dog teams stick to the coasts, preferring to face ordinary polar bears instead.  One race not afraid of owlbears is the mighty adlets, who train them as guard animals.

People think of the Fey Isle as a land of infinite forests and glades.  But the demiplane has beaches and borders as well.  Where it touches the chaos of Limbo, strange blended animals are born, and owlbears and chimeras serve as both rude guardians and apex predators.

Dungeon Denizens Revisited 34–39 & Pathfinder Bestiary 224

Last Friday the alphabet threw orcs at me; this Friday it’s owlbears.  That’s not even a little bit fair.

Even the master of late ’90s “Ecology” articles couldn’t pull off the owlbear: Jonathan M. Richards’s article from Dragon #214 is an uncharacteristically workmanlike exercise without any of his usual flair.

After yesterday’s post, we are all about the capital letters.  Syringesin:

Otyughs are THE SHIT

And a gold star to Demiurge:

Once, several years ago, one of my players was delighted to discover that otyughs were intelligent and spoke Common. And, based on their low Intelligence, she decided that they spoke like Lolcats.


All of my otyughs have operated under these rules since.

Finally, looking for the owl entry?  It’s hidden here.

PS: Tomorrow’s show (today’s show by the time you probably read this) will be a mix of SXSW tunes and Irish songs.  Tune in (Saturday, 10–noon, U.S. Eastern)!