Friday, May 31, 2013


The difference between nixies, nereids, and rusalkas is about orders of magnitude.  The former beguile and charm and sometimes even kill—but the impulses are capricious and selfish, not usually outright malicious.  Rusalkas are actively malevolent, luring slaves in a much more calculated fashion and releasing them to far bloodier ends.  While fey biology is an elusive thing, it is clear that rusalkas must feed on the torment they cause somehow…just as a fish mysteriously captures oxygen from the bosom of the water.

If you’re going to use rusalka in your game—and you should, as they’re a solid mid-to high-level fey threat—make sure you have the rules for being dazed or staggered down, and don’t forget about the nasty CMB of those tresses!

Trade between the Barony of Held and the nation of Neifferl is almost nonexistent thanks to one creature—a rusalka who guards the only path through the rapids that separate the dominions.  If the way is opened, the Barony’s clockwork creations could bring a renaissance to the beleaguered and mage-poor Neifferl.

The queen of Parkorov is a cruel, vindictive monarch who has her husband and her stepsons beguiled.  But the privy chamber has so far avoided her control.  Fearing for her life, one of the chamberlains has taken to spending much of her time in the crypts beneath the castle library, where she discovered an underground river and the queen’s secret—that she is actually a rusalka.

Despite the legends, most rusalkas are not, in fact, reincarnated spirits of the drowned.  But—the borders between life, death, and the fey realms being what they are—some rusalkas are.  These tend to either return as rusalka necromancers or witches whose power springs from dark wells, often attended by powerful (Advanced) draugrs or lacedons in additional to their elemental allies.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 232

If I’m going to write about rusalkas, I should play some Slavic folk music…or at least something fey like Clannad.  (Or this!  Which I just discovered.  Whoa.  Opera.)  But since tomorrow is June, naturally I’m listening to Warren Zevon, because that’s what I do in June.

Speaking of music…YOU GUYS!!!  *forehead slam* *forehead slam*  I’ve been so out of my head with stuff this week I never told you that I was BACK ON THE AIR!

Saturday was my first show back in three weeks.  And you’ve only got five hours to listen to/download it.  The file vanishes at midnight.  Think of this as a one-day-only sale.

BTW, I packed it chock full of new Vampire Weekend, Cayucas, and Dungeonesse.  And maybe a human head, like at the end of that movie!  GRAB IT WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rune Giant

Runes are awesome.  Odin had to die on a tree to get his.   And “rune” is a great word.  Add “rune” to anything, it sounds mystical and full of portent.  “The death rune.”  “Rune magic.”  “Rune-white bonefire.”  I have chills.

Unfortunately…well, how many times have you seen a clunky rune magic system crammed into a book on dwarves or giants or magic item construction (worse yet, with little to no connection to the rune systems of previous splatbooks)?  How often have you seen “rune” slapped onto a monster to round out an article (“Around the corner, you are ambushed by a rune drake!”)?

So the rune brand (ha! #puns) is a bit tarnished.  Plus, as you know, I’m not a fan of monsters created willy-nilly just by adding a new adjective, especially if they don’t gel with the original concept.  No one is ever going to sell me on D&D 3.5’s brain and web golems, for instance.  So while I’m all about the introduction of taiga and marsh giants joining the ranks of hill and stone…rune giants?  One of these things is not like the other.

But here’s the thing, though.  Golarion now is a different place than it was during the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path.  Now, after not just one but two hardbound campaign books, it truly is a role-playing game setting—a fleshed-out globe with historical analogues and well developed regions comprising “the best of all possible worlds.”  But then…then it was just a sketch of a world, a wild coast with a history just coming into focus.  And rune giants worked in that world.  They fit this place we barely knew.  They weren’t “right” in a way that my hidebound brain sometimes wants for my games, but they were very, very right for Varisia and Thassilon.  That’s what matters!  And for that reason, I’ll always like them.

As for stats and special abilities—well, they’re CR 17, can control giants and blow things up with their runes.  So that gives you a pretty good idea of the power you’re dealing with here.  (In fact, I kind of wish it was slightly less, just so we could get to them sooner in a 20-level campaign arc.  But anyway…)  And just look at the company organization block! Any culture that includes rune giants, yetis, cloud giants, frost giants, stone giants, lamia matriarchs, and blue dragons is one I want to learn more about.

Since (as most of you know by now) I keep my adventure seeds setting-neutral, you’ll see no reference to Runelords or Golarion below.  But that just makes them easier to drop into your campaign…

Sometimes the Northern Lights will blaze scarlet.  And when this happens, giants are called—fire and taiga giants who leave their tribes and head north.  It is said they get reforged there, somewhere hidden among the high volcanoes or deep in the earth.  All that is known is that they come back changed, wielding the weapons of the Ancestors and with bodies emblazoned with powerful runes.  And then comes war.

No loremaster of the Crane Kingdom will admit it (and only the Wu Jen of Fire know the whole tale), but the ideograms that make up their written script are stolen—stolen from rune giants.  This makes all giants the enemy of the Bird of Civilization.  Most disturbingly, it means that many rune giants can also command anything bearing an ideogram as if it were a giant—including terra-cotta soldiers, clockwork dragons, and even ordinary human soldiers with ideogram tattoos…

The blue dragon suzerain known simply as Sultana contacts a party of adventurers with whom she has long quarreled, suddenly proposing an alliance.  Rune giants from the south are gathering hordes of giants to their banners, as well as a number of her younger kin.  She has no desire to share her vassals or any spoils with such creatures, and thinks the adventurers who have been such a thorn in her side can do just as much damage to the giant cause…if properly motivated.

Pathfinder #6 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 130

Giants Revisited has more on rune giants and how to use them in your campaign, courtesy of Jesse Benner.

And of course, let us take a moment to remember Jack Vance—whom I have not read, but plan to.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Royal Naga

Fantasy role-playing has tons of ancient powers determined to rise again (serpentfolk, liches, and aboleths spring to mind).  And it has tons of once-great races now clinging to the shreds of their former majesty (elves, dwarves, and mummies, anyone?).  But there has to be a place for the never-weres and never-will-bes.  And that’s what I think royal nagas are. 

The naga race never really had their great moment.  In Forgotten Realms, they were tools of the sarrukh.  In Golarion, they’re doing much better in the nation of Nagajor specifically (see the Dragon Empires Gazetteer)…but anywhere else royal nagas are solitary individuals tending (as the Bestiary 3 notes) “lost cities and forgotten kingdoms, guarding ancient treasures for their own inscrutable reasons.”

Of course, “inscrutable reasons” is just another phrase for “adventure seed” and “motivation for an antagonist.”  And with five alternate forms, blinding and deafening gazes, and sorcery, royal nagas have the tricks to supremely frustrate and mislead a party while doggedly protecting their secrets.

Also, I know I whip out the arguing heads or even the multiple personalities trick almost any time we get a multiheaded creature.  But c’mon…with five alternate forms, the royal naga is begging to have a personality per head, at least for certain traumatized members of the species…

A family appears to tend an ancient shrine.  In reality, every member of the family is another form of the shrine’s royal naga guardian, who once ruled the sunken city whose gate the shrine guards.  Any supplicant who sees and understands too much is summarily deafened and blinded.

Resurrected by magic when his tomb was breached, Camessiss the Ancient witnessed the last splintering of the naga race.  He loathes the foul spirit nagas as a result.  He will aid respectful seekers of lore, but if his five heads sniff the stink of (respectively) necromancy, transmutation, demonology, the Chaos domain, or witchcraft on the would-be archaeologists, he will have his nagaji fanatics slay them.

Amphitiron is a four-headed royal naga; its fifth neck is a stump.  It is also quite mad.  In a never-ended chase that has spanned a continent, three of its alternate forms desperately hunt the fourth, a half-elf assassin they claim killed the fifth form, a halfling maid. Amphitiron has no memory of this when it is in naga form, but since it changes shape when it dreams, the humanoid personalities can take over for weeks at a time, leaving the naga form lost and confused when it comes to.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 198

What’s that?  You’re a disgusting monster?  Then you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t forget the rot grub swarm; we covered it way back here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


These guys…man, these guys.  These things.

Okay, so we’ve had sadists on these pages before—I compared interlocutor kytons to Count Rugen and Adelei Niska.  But ropers are something else entirely.  (Turn the previous two up to 11 and add plenty of Hannibal Lecter.)  Kytons are interested in their twisted brand of improvement—the pain they cause serves either themselves or their victims.  Whereas for ropers, pain…and amputation, being devoured bit by bit, the knowledge of one’s body becoming food and the loss of self/humanity that implies, death, etc.…are philosophical, psychological, artistic and even psychedelic explorations.  Most of all, they want to talk about all of the above—to hold a colloquy with their fellows and receive contributions (in words and flesh) from their victims.  In other words, they want to ruminate over their meals…in more ways than one.

(With the Paizo version of roper being so dark, is it any wonder Nicolas Logue was tapped to write the Dungeon Denizens Revisited write-up?)

Now, none of this will be immediately apparent to your players.  To your players, ropers are the scary-ass CR 12 stalagmite monsters that come alive and sap strength—some of the nastiest non-mind-zapping or spell-slinging monsters in the Darklands/Underdark this side of purple worms.  (And they’re spell-resistant to boot.)  If all goes well and the party is observant and sticks together, they’ll never know how twisted the ropers’ worldview is.

But if the party gets separated…  If there’s an almost total TPK…  If they have to do a rescue mission…  If the party sneaks up on a cluster of ropers but only observe…  This is when you get to have the ropers talk.  And that’s when things really get weird.  Combine every book of theory or philosophy you kept from college…every artistic serial killer’s love note to the cops…every time you saw two professors argue…add a dash of Julia Child…and blurble like you’re a hungry Ayn Rand-reading stalagmite while your PCs desperately try to make saves and plan escape routes.  (Even as your roper begins to chew…)

No one flees the Pallid City headed upwards.  The ghouls are too practiced at betrayal and mass too ravenously for this to happen, and most merchant caravans that brave the deeps are slaughtered mere minutes after Ghoul King revokes his protection.  But some upworlders do manage to escape downwards, through the winding streets and into the sandy tunnels that line the Silent Sea.  Their first glimpse of freedom is the landmark known as the Waiting Henge—a cavern that opens to a beach with standing stones and a ship moored just offshore.  It is also their last: The stones of the Henge are ropers who easily snatch the panicked runners.

A philosophical division has broken out among a cluster of ropers, and the aberrations are too egotistical to simply separate.  If they capture one person alone, they may ask him to judge which side is right.  If they capture two or more at once, they make their victims debate, nibbling off limbs to add some exigence to the whole affair.  (The subject matter, by the way, is almost impenetrable to non-aberrant brains—a comparison of the void of space verses the blackness of Subterrania, comparisons of the Entities and Old Gods that live in each, what level of power defines godhood, and whether ropers themselves become divine in relation to their food weakening.)

The drow family Malebrigar is trapped in its own manor.  Ropers surrounded their isolated home in the dark, bearing with them a magical globe that blocks teleportation and extradimensional escape.  Now the Malebrigar family, servants, and slaves wait to be starved out and devoured one by one.  They need a rescue…but drow are notoriously bad at repaying debts with anything but poison or summoned demons.  That said, the Malebrigar also have a phenomenal library and an azata chained in their basement.

Dungeon Denizens Revisited 46–51 & Pathfinder Bestiary 237

I notice DDR’s ropers have a higher SR than the Bestiary’s.

“The Ecology of the Roper,” from Dragon 232, was a (creepy) harbinger of Johnathan M. Richards’s dominance of the form throughout the rest of the 200s.

Speaking of which, does anyone have thoughts on the Dave Gross years of Dragon.  I’d be interested to hear them!  (Even though I’m (still!) hella behind acknowledging a lot of your comments lately…)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Rock Troll

Like many things in Pathfinder, rock trolls are an attempt to reunite and reconcile the folkloric origin of a monster with the stat block it has since become.  Trolls in Scandinavian folk tales were petrified by the sunlight, ditto most trolls in fiction (Tolkien, anyone?).  Regenerating, fire-fearing trolls are an RPG thing, apparently inspired by Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions (which I’ve never read but have many times heard tell of its influence in D&D).

Rock trolls lose the classic RPG vulnerability to fire, trading it for sonic and sunlight vulnerability instead, which is more in line with the trolls of legend.  And that’s…pretty much all you need to know really.  They’re a hair more powerful and a hair less bright than the standard troll, so if you wanted a mythologically correct game you could even just make rock trolls your default troll entirely without disrupting play.  You also might play a bit with the crystalline content of the trolls’ skin—it might change depending on their region of origin or recent diet, reflecting the stones they’ve eaten.  Other than that, they’re just another fine troll subspecies with which to surprise spelunking PCs and frustrate fireball-tossing mages.

An elderly xorn wants to consume the tourmaline-studded skin of a live rock troll—a delicacy.  But in its infirmity it needs guides to help it find one of the creatures, as well as help hacking the regenerating thing apart if the party can’t find one small enough for the xorn to gulp whole.

Dwarven bards from all over the continent are gathering at Caer Undwen to trade songs, sing dirges, and tune their instruments to the perfect pitch of the Cavern of the Spheres.  Unfortunately, this leaves no one with musical skill remaining at the dwarf settlement of Holdfast.  When the clan unearths a gang of hibernating rock trolls, there is no one to take hammer to the chimes of shattering that would wound the creatures.  Without the help of brave adventurers, the clan is doomed to days of tunnel fighting and attrition in the depths.

Necromancers are notoriously hard on apprentices, but Maxim of the White Hand is worse than most.  If adventurers enter the courtyard of his isolated keep, he sends one of his pupils to greet them and offer refreshments…while another, invisible, uses scrolls of stone to flesh to awaken the two rock troll “statues” in the courtyard.  If the apprentices are killed in the process (the trolls do not discriminate), Maxim reanimates their bodies later.  What’s left of them, anyway…

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 272

Friday, May 24, 2013


I don’t know if any mythological monster has suffered from fantasy RPGs’ power creep as badly as the roc.

When you look at bestiaries of folklore, rocs are badass.  Dragons?  Forget dragons. Aside from two notable exceptions, most of them aren’t even bigger than St. George’s horse.  Basilisk?  Sic a weasel on it.  Chimera?  Get yourself a lump of lead and a lance.  But rocs?  They can carry off elephants.

But since all they are is big birds—no spells or special abilities to speak of—they’re not that scary once PCs reach a certain level.

My answer?  Make sure PCs are exposed to rocs before that level.  A CR 9 bird won’t scare your 9th-level PCs, but it has a good shot of terrifying your 6th-level ones.  Send the roc after them when they’re exposed, or when conditions favor the roc—when they’re on a pitching ship deck, for instance, or a bare cliff face.  A roc that attacks in a daisy-filled meadow isn’t scary, but a roc that takes a camel from their train day after day when they’re lost in the desert is a nightmare.  And if you decide to give your rocs the Advanced treatment, you can easily give them a fear-causing shriek or a gale-raising wing beat that adds some CR to the encounter without sacrificing the roc’s iconic feel.

If all else fails, put a cloud giant sorcerer on the roc’s back.  That’s plenty scary.

In the minaret-spired cities of the South, rocs are a known hazard.  But when a roc carries off the Alabaster Juggernaut, an elephant-shaped construct the pasha uses to hammer down the fortifications of his enemies, the despot places a bounty on their heads too large to ignore.

Beren Skyheart is a druid with some limited oracular talents.  He reads the future in the entrails of the birds his roc companion catches.  Beren is fond of dangerous monsters, excusing even terrible creatures like chimeras and bulettes for their depredations, and he will battle those that hunt them. But anyone who takes up arms against gnolls or hobgoblins earns his respect.

A garuda comes out of the wastes seeking adventurers of noble heart.  Roc-riding cloud giants have descended upon the suli city of Harmony, and the residents need experienced warriors to lead the counterstrike.

Pathfinder Bestiary 236

Also, forget looking rocs up in Mythological Monsters Revisited—they got a single line in the Introduction.

Rocs don’t grow to full size as long as they are animal companions, apparently.  So…are druids with roc companions kind souls looking after the runts of the nest...or are they the things stunting their companions growth?  Or is it a lifespan thing?  Maybe elven druids are the only ones who live long enough to see their rocs grow to Gargantuan size…

Thursday, May 23, 2013

River Drake

On the other end of the spectrum from yesterday’s rift drakes, river drakes are the weakest drake species so far described.  They are still two feet longer than a man and weigh three times as much, so they remain quite the threat to ordinary fishermen and boaters.

One of my GMs believed that a dragon should show up sometime during every new player’s first campaign—“It’s why they buy a ticket for the ride.”  At CR 3, the river drake is a chance to make that happen early, perhaps even in the PCs’ first adventure if they’ve been lucky with the hit points and magic items.  And if they’ve mastered the dungeon, a rampage of river drakes is a great way to show them that the wide wilderness can be just as deadly, if not more so.

A rampage of river drakes attacks canoers on the Massapaton River.  The party can avoid them by hugging the south bank where the drakes hesitate to go, but that puts them within reach of several patches of assassin vines.

The Shireton River is running high this year, but traffic across it is at a standstill—Mule Ferry is out of business.  The distraught ferryman says river drakes regularly extorted him, and then they finally ate the mules that pulled the ferry.  He’ll give free rides for life to anyone who can save his livelihood.

Some pseudodragons come seeking adventurers’ help—they’ve been driven away from their home on the roof of the bank by some predatory river drakes.  Helping them could lead to the party acquiring a pseudodragon companion or familiar.  The dragonets have also taken very careful note of the guards’ shift changes at the bank…

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 107

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rift Drake

Rift drakes are among the largest drakes, and at CR 9 they rival many younger dragons in power.  On the whole, they are going to be hazards of the wastelands—soaring shapes on the horizon who dive without warning and attack, or who leap up out of crevasses spitting slowing acid just as the PCs are negotiating a narrow defile.  With their speed surge, savage bite, and a cascade of critical hit feats, they are superb ambush hunters how know how to make a single lunge count.

If anyone in the party speaks Draconic however, you have the chance to serve up a bonus: rift drakes who are utter jerks…especially from cover or in the dark.  A rift drake can pretend to be a wounded traveler or a giant dragon, concoct sob stories or make elaborate ransom demands, and otherwise string a party along in order to get whatever treasure or food from them it can…and then it will likely just attack them anyway.

Hearing a party’s sorcerer reading aloud in Draconic, a rift drake hides in a gorge and calls for help in the same language.  He tries to lure the party into mounting a rescue expedition down the gorge—ideally with them all tied together, so he can snatch them up like fish on a line.

Rock trolls aid a rift drake in hunting for victims.  Cowed by the rift drake’s acid, the giants aid the dragon by picking off any obvious archers or spellcasters with thrown rocks or avalanche traps before the drake attacks the most succulent victims.

A blood mage hires a party of adventurers to escort him through the badlands.  His bulk draws the keen eyes of some thermal-riding rift drakes.  Used to stringy goats and other canyon fare, they are beside themselves at the chance to sample such a juicy meal.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 106

Do rift drakes remind anyone else of Arkady and the ferals from Naomi Novik’s Black Powder War?

Oh, and we covered Halfling’s Best Friend, the riding dog, way back here.

Speaking of utter jerks, I would really love to know which of my neighbors complained that my grass had grown too high and had me cited by the city.  This apparently happened last week.  …When I was on my back with a fever and up every night past 2 a.m. coughing.

(Adding insult to injury, I live next to a vacant house.  You know, like in Season 4 of The Wire.  And normally I do that house’s landscaping, too, just to be a good neighbor.  Which just piles on the irony extra thick.)

Hmm, I think rather than pay the $60 fine, I will go for the “Request a Hearing” option.  And—gosh, wouldn’t you know it?—I will be checking the box stating that both the inspector and the affiant need to show up at the hearing, too.  If you’re going to ruin my day, you’re more than welcome to do so…to my face.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rhinoceros & Woolly Rhinoceros

Rhinoceroses are the GM’s reason to learn Pathfinder’s powerful charge rules. 

Woolly rhinoceroses are the GM’s reason to learn Pathfinder’s powerful charge and trample rules.

An adventuring party is trying to skirt a herd of rhinoceroses when a roc attacks, hoping to pick off a calf.  Panicked, the rhinos head straight for the party.

A party needs advice from a tundra sprite.  Rather than make permanent homes, these frost-rimed fey live on the backs of woolly mammoths…so half the challenge in meeting the sprite is doing so without disturbing its temperamental host.

A catfolk druid objects to an adventuring party’s campfire, as a drought has left the veldt tinder-dry.  If she cannot douse the parties fire with magic, she will send her rhinoceros animal companion into their midst to stamp it out, trusting its tough hide to protect it.

Pathfinder Bestiary 235

Monday, May 20, 2013


The revenant is pretty much the restless dead at its most basic—as long as its killer lives, it lives.  (And it gets hasted if it sees its killer.  Bitchin’!)

So…obviously, a revenant can be an enemy of the PCs who really, really hated them.  More likely, though, the PCs will run into a revenant by happenstance.  This may actually lead to some interesting moral quandaries—here’s an undead they don’t actually have to kill…but how do they know its target?  Is the hate deserved?  How many people might the revenant injure along its way (particularly if its self-loathing trigger is a common sight or occurrence)? 

(The self-loathing trigger is also a major reason why a revenant may target PCs it would otherwise ignore—the more diligent they are about disguising themselves as the enemy or cleaning out every room in the dungeon of magical and valuable items, the more likely they are to possess some artifact of the revenant’s former life that will either overwhelm or upset it.)

And if the revenant and the party share the same target, truly tactically minded PCs might go out of their way to speed the spirit in its quest.  One can imagine them leading a revenant to its target, locking the door behind it, and waiting for the screaming to stop…

PS: When a monster showed up in a Pathfinder product before it showed up in a Bestiary I try to flag that, but I fail more often than not.  (I missed the raktavarna, for instance.)  Props to the PathfinderWiki for reminding me the revenant dates all the way back to Pathfinder #2: “The Skinsaw Murders.”  Going back to the original source is worth it, since those entries are often longer and more detailed.  Case in point: Worshippers of Calistria actually consider it their duty to help revenants achieve their ends.  That’s delicious.

The easiest way into the treasure hold of Karnak Keep is to sneak in wearing the blue tabards of the Karnak Guard, then break through the poorly done brickwork separating the cellar from the vault.  Unfortunately, this reveals why the brickwork was poorly done—one of the original Guards was drugged and bricked up behind the wall by his fellows, so they could abscond with his wife.  He died of starvation, and his revenant has been scratching its way out ever since.  Of course, seeing the tabards of his betrayers might throw the undead guard into a frenzy…

Murders on the Pilgrimage of Silk are sadly common, as offerings of coins are traditional and many pilgrims save their entire lives to make the journey, only to run afoul of brigands.  This means revenants are common along the road as well—the souls grow irate at being caught between their homes and the shrine with their pledges unfilled.  A ronin or otherwise unobligated samurai who meets a revenant is honor-bound to help it in its quest for the next 24 hours, making for many an odd pair along the road.

An acolyte of Ferris the Dawn has sworn to slay any undead she meets.  But when she meets a revenant her oath is tested—the revenant is her mother, slain while the acolyte was at seminary.  Worse yet (investigation will reveal), it hunts a bishop of her order.

—Pathfinder #2 90–91 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 235

I made it all the way through this write-up without mentioning that the revenant’s “Self-Loathing” and “Reason to Hate” abilities basically make it the most __________ of any Pathfinder monster.  (Fill in the blank: goth/emo/AV club/any middle-schooler ever.)

Yes, I missed my radio show for the second week in a row.  Being sick sucks.

I am also not excited about this.  The fact that they explicitly had to promise not to screw it up tells you everything you need to know.  Yahoo! does not know how to run…things.  Any of the things.  At all.  It especially does not understand communities.  At all.  Pardon me while I pour out a 40 for Yahoo! Clubs/Groups.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Yesterday I referred to remorhazes as “skittering contradictions,” but maybe I should have saved that description for the retriever.  Spiders the size of elephants.  Made from the stuff of the Abyss, but not demons.  Constructs, yet with an extreme alignment.  And utterly loyal and relentless despite the chaos inherent in their creation.

Retrievers are constructs created by demons to terrify and capture other demons.  (It’s no wonder they resemble the demon-devouring bebiliths.)  After all, when you can’t rely on your servants’ loyalty, relying on your near-mindless eye-ray-beaming constructs isn’t a bad fallback strategy.  PCs will usually only run afoul of them if they get ensnarled in Abyssal politics—retrievers are too valuable to be spent chasing after mere mortals—but since they can be summoned as if they were demons by spellcasters with more wealth than common sense and Charisma, they might pop up in some surprising places.

Tambridge Meersin believed the rare stone he had quarried and shaped would form a prize-winning golem.  But the Abyssal basalt warped his conjurations.  When he pulled back the curtain for the golem’s first exhibition, the construct hatched a fully formed retriever that began to burn, freeze, zap, and petrify the helpless onlookers.

Dwelling in a needle-like tower that juts out of an Abyssal swamp, the tiefling loremaster Az Hokh Thul is loathed by his demonic neighbors.  They dare not move against him, though, as his four pet retrievers dance atop the perimeter moat like deadly water striders.

A vrock has earned Pazuzu’s ire.  He fled to the tunnels of the mortal world, the better to hide from the airborne eyes of the King of Wind Demons.  The retriever sent to recover him follows the vrock’s trail doggedly, attacking anyone whose essence the demon has corrupted…including some unlucky adventurers.

Pathfinder Bestiary 234

Forgive me if I’ve been bad about answering your mail/comments— minneyar42, koboldbard, Bill, I’m looking at you—but I’m still #$%^ing sick.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Remorhazes are skittering contradictions—worms the size of giants, creatures that live in the ice that nevertheless burn with their own internal fires.  This allows them to live in the most extreme quarters of the polar regions, from windswept tundras to ever-smoking volcanoes.  Their resilience and enraged strength likely makes them objects of fear and reverence for most other arctic races.  One imagines they would be common totem animals for the Northern tribesman, especially for their skill at hunting frost worms, and a frost giant who allies with a remorhaz earns great status.  Perhaps their greatest rivalry would be with white dragons—immune to cold, they can shrug off the whites’ icy breath, and the heat of their bodies makes them dangerous opponents in close quarters.

Your average adventuring party will likely know none of this, unless they come from a polar region.  But they’ll soon find out that remorhazes are integral to both the ecology and the culture of the Poles.  One thing, at least, is certain: They will soon find there is no such thing as a neutral opinion regarding the beasts.

Guiding the wooly mammoth herds from their summer to winter grazing lands is arduous work.  Going beneath the shadow of the volcanic Fire Peaks saves several days, but risks drawing the attention of the remorhazes that live on the border between lava and tundra.

Hoarwythivark Blizzardbite, as she styles herself, is a white dragon who rules over Seal Neck Bay.  Recently remorhazes devoured a clutch of her newly hatched young.  For her revenge she turns to human adventurers, promising the pick of her hoard.  She claims to be too large to follow the worms into their burrows, but really she is terrified of the tight confines and the remorhazes’ terrible heat.  Of course, the reward is a lie—consumed with anger and shame at losing her young, she plans to devour the adventurers even if they succeed.

Chief Aelferd Worm-Friend no longer keeps company in his great hall nor worships at the rune-carved alters of his ancestors.  The only visitor he admits into his presence is a black-masked yeti that the rest of his tribe abhors.  But they dare not move against the ape shaman or their lord, so long as Aelferd’s pet remorhaz remains loyal.

Pathfinder Bestiary 233

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I love low-CR monsters, because they give GMs more options—so not every first level adventure has to be dire rat, kobold, goblin.  And I love plausible monsters that are fantastic without being over the top—so that there isn’t such a huge ecological jump from housecat to chimera.

So I’m a big fan of Pathfinder creations like Varisia’s jigsaw shark or the reefclaw.  Simple, evocative names for simple, intriguing monsters.  The reefclaw’s niche could have been occupied by a dire or giant lobster…but instead we get a new, better monster.  If the old man at the dockyard tavern tells my character to watch out for reefclaws, and my character feels something clamp around his legs, I’m going to be right there with him in character screaming, “A reefclaw’s got me!” instead of shrugging at the GM and saying, “I roll to hit the dire lobster.”

Oh, and remember, reefclaws can understand Common.  So best not plan that fishing trip out loud.  Wait, one more thing: death frenzy!   Kill a reefclaw, it delivers one last full attack with its death spasms!  Who says CR 1 monsters have to be boring?

The elderly hermit of Bone Creek relies on his sons to bring him food, but a squall swept them out to sea in their coracle.  Adventurers can earn the hermit’s (and the village’s) goodwill if they fish the reefclaw-infested waters for him until his sons struggle home.

Adventurers are fording a channel when suddenly the heavily armored members of their party are attacked.  A harem of female reefclaws has mistaken the plate-wearing adventurers for fertile males ready to be carved apart during the breeding.

A curse seems to hang over the fishing community.  Every time the boats go out, a deckhand fails to come home.  In actuality, the fishermen are the victims of a canny school of reefclaws.  The reefclaws hide in the prayer pool where the fishermen whisper the name of their next fishing spot and ask the Sea God for luck.  The reefclaws then head straight there to lie in ambush.

—Pathfinder #7 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 234

I appreciate all the red dragon love, you guys!  Now if only one of you can send me a chirurgeon or alchemist to rid me of this nasty bug I came down with…

Simple evocative names for monsters were something I loved about Sword & Sorcery’s Creature Collection books, too.  I’ve already given them some love online before, but today I just looked on Amazon and saw that you can get the original (3.0) version used for 44 cents.  That’s insane.  Even the revised (3.5) version starts at a totally reasonable $18 from the right seller…but c’mon, 44 cents!  If you never experienced White Wolf’s take on 3.0, you owe it to yourself to get a copy.