Thursday, October 31, 2013


If I were starting a campaign today, tengus would be a core class.  No question.

(I’m about to get really ranty, so bear with me.  Feel free to apply an NCIS-style dope slap if I become insufferable.)

Way back in the mists of time—when my intros were short, pithy things rather than the bloated monstrosities they have since become—I pitched the centaur as a crucial shorthand for fantasy:

It can be too easy to forget that the nonhumans in the party are just that—nonhuman.  But centaurs scream fantasy.  They move in the PCs’ world—they might even be PCs—but they are always a bit different, a bit other, a bit more.

The same goes for tengus.  What better way to highlight that characters inhabit a fantasy world than by having crow-faced humanoids pass them in the shops?  There’s no mistaking a tengu for a human with pointy ears.  And since tengus are relatively new to fantasy role-playing, including them immediately breaks you out of the Tolkien or the Forgotten Realms mold.  Tengus make a campaign new.  Different.  Yours.

Tengus are also readymade to fit a number of roles.  Need a trickster?  How about a mystic?  A double-sword-wielding man-about-town?  Tengus could be any of those things, depending on your campaign’s needs.  The same goes for replacing stale race/class combos.  Not sure how to differentiate dwarves/gnomes/halflings in your campaign?  Ditch one or two for the tengu—problem solves.  Do you rely on a race to the point of fetishization?  (“My name is Patch, and I’m addicted to role-playing elves.”)  As an exercise, drop them and try out a tengu.  And if your kid has just read his first Drizzt Do’Urden book, gently pry it out of his hands and give him a character sheet with a scimitar-wielding crow-man.

Finally, crows and ravens are found in almost every nation’s folklore, which means tengus can take on the overtones of any number of real-world and fantasy cultures.  Tengu can be samurai or shugenja.  They can be tricksters and oracles, after the Raven in Native American myths.  As carrion birds, they could be monsters fighting alongside gnolls, or as grave-tending saddhus who have taken vows of poverty.  And in your version of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, why not have the Raven King be an actual raven?

Tengus are awesome.  You should use them in your campaign.  End rant.

An adventuring party is traveling on the high seas when the crew becomes convinced that one of the party members is a good luck charm.  This rankles the jinx eater (see Isles of the Shackles) on board, and the jealous tengu arranges several “accidents” to befall his new rival.

A tengu prowler has given up the pride of his nation and family, but not his own sense of honor.  Recently he teamed up with cat-eared, rakshasa-blooded tiefling arcane trickster.  As their targets go up in net worth and magical reward (and risk), the tengu begins to feel the beastbrood trickster is taking too many shortcuts—and taking advantage of the vow he swore to protect her.  Tengus from his nation are known to hold oaths sacred…but will he?

The first pyramids were not built by men or azers, but tengus.  A party of adventurers discovers this while excavating an ancient tomb, but they may not survive the tomb’s many venerable tengu mummies…nor the many present-day tengu, gnoll, and ratfolk cultists waiting outside who have sworn to protect the secret at all costs.

Pathfinder Bestiary 263

Do I really even need to tell you to pick up the Advanced Race Guide?  But yes, there are six pages on tengus in there.  Also be sure to check out Isles of the Shackles for the jinx eater—a traditional role for tengus on pirate ships, whose job it is to absorb bad luck.  There’s also a tengu nation, Kwanlai, in the Dragon Empires Gazetteer.

Finally, if you’re looking for the more mythic take on tengus, Pathfinder offers the yamabushi tengu, an evil oni, in Pathfinder Adventure Path #49: The Brinewall Legacy.

Finally, Part Deux: Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


So you want to throw a mid-level plant creature at the PCs.  Which do you choose? 

Both the shambling mound and the tendriculos are CR 6.  The shambler is smarter and understands Common as well as Sylvan; that intelligence also leads to more skills.  The tendriculos make up for its lack of gray matter (or green matter?) with numbers, being more likely to be found in a pair or grove of 3–6 individuals.  The shambler is Large while the tendriculos is Huge…but apparently loosely packed, as they both weigh about the same.  They are both carnivorous: the shambling mound constricting its victims and then feasting off the corpses, while the tendriculos can paralyze, swallow whole, and digest (likely thanks to its fungal components).  The tendriculos is tougher in general, but the shambler more resistant to fire and famously (and alarmingly) able to feed off electricity.

In the final analysis, the tendriculos is slightly more dangerous—even taking into account the shambling mound’s intellect.  In magical settings, lightning-scarred forests, and in coordination with other intelligent creatures, beware the shambler…but in most forest encounters, the “ravenous purple maw” (per the Bestiary 2) of the tendriculos is the thing to fear.

Locals call the bridge to Dorfin the Troll Bridge, as travelers often disappear from there without a trace.  The guilty party is not a troll, but rather a tendriculos that clings to the side of the stonework like ivy.

The tendriculoses of the Miriani Jungle are not content to wait for prey to wander into their territory.  Instead, they swing through the cathedral-like canopies of native spire trees, brachiating like apes by their tendrils as they hunt.

The hot spring at Jøter seems to be unguarded.  But the thick carpets of lichen and moss that gather around the entrance are actually two specimens of a rare tundra tendriculos.  The hungry plants are just intelligent enough to wait to strike victims as they are leaving the spring, rested and incautious.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 259

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tempest Behemoth

The Bestiary 3 introduced us to a new, nearly tarrasque-class level of monsters: the behemoths.  “Immense, ageless, and very nearly invincible, behemoths deliver divine retribution to the mortal realms,” it says, and then goes on for an entire page describing the devastation these kaiju-like creatures wreak across the land. 

Given that Paizo has spent that much real estate on them, I don’t have much to add, except this: These creatures understand Aklo, the language of subterranean monsters, aberrations, and Lovecraftian horrors.  Which raises certain questions…namely: Why?  Is this because it’s a simple, primordial language that’s easy to understand?  Or is Aklo close to the original words of creation?  Or maybe the gods didn’t create behemoths—maybe they just use them, but the behemoths’ genesis comes from an earlier age.  Perhaps the use of behemoths as weapons is the original sin that has kept the great Old Ones from being banished from this dimension entirely—as long as behemoths exist, perhaps the Old Ones can maintain the tiniest sliver of a foothold…

Again, this is just something to think about if you want an origin story besides the one in the Bestiary 3.  For the same reason, here are three tempest behemoth adventure seeds that try to explore uses for these Colossal nightmare birds outside of divine retribution.  (Though that’s cool, too…)

The Elemental Planes cycle in and out of phase with the world of Mater, bringing decades of Fire, Water, Earth, and Air in turn—and with them, the behemoths of each element.  Now the cycle of Air is ascendant, and mountaintops calve off floating earthbergs, winds scour the grasslands, and tempest behemoths own the skies.

A humbaba champion has been crippled beyond the aid of mortal healing magic.  Mortified by defeat and wounding, he seeks to compensate by doing more than just curing his injury.  He means to gain wings…and not just any wings, but wings befitting his power: the wings of a tempest behemoth.  And he knows just the people to help him—the adventurers who laid him low in the first place.

Tengus have been branded as traitors for their role in the Free Rebellion, down to the very last bird-man.  Now the First Empire is rounding them up, seeking to use genocide to make an example to its subject peoples.  Good adventurers and rebels are able to ameliorate some of the worst crimes.  But as tengu numbers decline, the crow-priests take a desperate step: They sacrifice themselves to summon a tempest behemoth.  The creature takes its wrath out on the Emperor of the First and his capital, but tragically it does not stop there…

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 37

Mail call!  Friday’s post got a lot of well-wishers.  Thanks especially to fuckyeahdnd for the enthusiasm (and reblogs) and to wesschneider, who highlighted the fact that tatzlwyrms first showed up in Hollow’s Last Hope:

This was also the first monster ever stated up under the Pathfinder brand, appearing in our first adventure Hollow’s Last Hope!  It still has a special place in the hearts of all of us here at Paizo! :D

Also, re: the tarrasque, I’m not sure if justjingles is fleeing in terror or squeeing in delight—probably the latter; she likes civilization-ending monsters.

Also, vanadies had more to say on the tanuki:

“If you’re interested in a take on tanuki and tengu mythology in modern culture that isn’t quite as preachy as Pom Poko, I highly recommend a recent anime series called The Eccentric Family.”

And regarding the syrinx, titleknown added:

Oh god.  I can just imagine one of these guys pausing in the middle of an elaborate and erudite villain speech to swallow a guinea-pig whole like in the background of that one .gif, horking it down while the players look on in horror.

This is the first use of “horking” in this blog.

I should also call out my most enthusiastic rebloggers, jenna-darknight and forsaac, for being awesome in general.

Finally big hugs to hewnoire for liking the music video I had a (admittedly tiny and job-related) hand in creating, and uwtartarus for reblogging(!) my radio show.  I know you guys come here for the monsters, but I really appreciate those of you who investigate some of my other projects.  (And I take requests, BTW…)

Oh yeah, my radio show!  Download it here!  Once again this week the intro song got cut off (grrr…it was Folk Implosion’s “Natural One”).  But keep listening—there’s plenty of Au Revoir Simone, Haley Bonar, Vic and Gab, and more.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013


Edit: Holy crap!  In case you’re keeping track of these things, this is monster #600 for The Daily Bestiary.

When do I get cake?

Tatzlwyrms put the “worm” in wyrm; they are snakelike dragons whose claws are little more than stubs.  At the worldbuilding level, I like them for being evolutionary offshoots of dragons…that, and it’s always nice to have a dragon that isn’t just another adjective slapped in front of the word “dragon.”  At the gaming level, I like them because at CR 2, they’re an excellent first “dragon” for PCs to kill.  And getting a reputation as dragonslayers at only 1st or 2nd level is an excellent way for a party to get into hot water, fast.  *tents fingers in an evil manner*

Local youths revere Sir Bredis, a former crusader turned ranger who brings home tatzlwyrm heads year after year.  But when he fails to return from a hunt, having been brought down by a nest of the beasts, it’s up to his young apprentices and fans to take up his mantle and defend their home against the area’s many boggards, bugbears, and the remaining wyrms.

A kobold tribe’s claim of dragon ancestry is bolstered by their leaders’ mounts: a live tatzlwyrm for their chief and a zombie tatzlwyrm for their witch doctor.

Tatzlwyrms aren’t rare in Wyrm Hollow; if anything, the best word to describe them is rampant.  There is a Wyrm Hunt every year, with prizes to the team that brings home the most heads.  Placing in the competition is a good way to gain the attention of local patrons, as well as an introduction into the local wyrmscourged exiled dwarf and dusk elf communities (see the Advanced Race Guide).

Pathfinder #31 82–83 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 261

A bit more on the above: In most fantasy societies, I’m guessing there are probably two tiers of dragonslayers.  The top-tier slayers are the real things—heroes tough or crafty enough to bring down a dragon in its prime, about whom legends are quite rightly told. 

Then there’s the second tier.  These aren’t wannabes per se; rather, they are hunters of drakes, newly independent wyrmling or very young dragons, and tatzlwyrms.  And for most communities, that’s all the dragonslayer they need: a single ranger or fighter or group of adventurers within a three-days’ ride tough enough to get the job done.  Such a dragonslayer will have a bit of a reputation, free drinks at most taverns, and a lot of respect.  But when a real dragon or linnorm comes calling, that reputation will have to be lived (or died) up to.  In fact, many an adventure might start with your PCs having the misfortune to arrive in town at the exact same time the village’s previous dragonslayer’s corpse does…

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Twelve feet tall, animal-jawed, and blue-skinned, the tataka rakshasa looks like a religious idol come to life—appropriate, since one of its main goals is the corruption of the devout and spreading blasphemy in holy places.  Tatakas lure victims into apostasy through subterfuge, seduction, and well-placed healing magic…and those they cannot lead astray end up being on the receiving end of their devastating martial arts blows.

Pradil, Tempter of the Lost, is a tataka that lives in the abandoned temple complex at Purna.  Her main ally and servant is a bhuta who was unjustly tried and executed as a heretic by covetous rivals from his order.  The bhuta puts the animals of the jungle to work spying on nearby travelers. Those that look like they would make good slaves, sparring partners, or converts are met by the tataka; any clerics or inquisitors are left to the undead’s not-so-tender mercies.

The Terror in Lapis appears to be a murti, one of the many statues in the great mandir at the mouth of the Geer River.  In reality, it is a tataka bound in place there by the blue-stoned mandala that surrounds it.  Fortunately, it can only be freed if the mandala is broken and the ruby of binding torn from its brow…but that is just what some gem-hunting adventurers have been hired to do, not knowing what they disturb…

In the green-roofed temple of Whitewall, custom dictates that the lama or his champion must answer any challenge involving unarmed combat.  This year, a tataka demands to fight.  She scoffs at protests that the lama is too old—and interestingly, claims to have known him in a different life, when he was a thief.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 230

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tarry Demodand

Also known as a farastu, the tarry demodand is “the grunt of the demodand army”—which, as the Bestiary 3 points out, tells you something about the demodands’ might as a whole, if their grunts are CR 13.  Capable of mowing down demons with their twin masterwork short swords, tarry demodands regard most mortals as little threat.  Whether serving as soldiers of the titans (in Pathfinder), as the multiverse’s prison guards (in 3.5’s Great Wheel cosmology), or pursuing their own dark ends, they are agile and inventive threats.

Pyrehenge has been snuffed out.  The famous druid stone circle with its ever-burning flame in the center has been attacked by tarry demodands.  The fiends hope to pillage the secrets of the druids’ green magic so that their race can be even more prolific.  Their faith-stealing strikes are particularly effective against the divine defenders.

The Firenzi Academy teaches a unique style of fencing, combining the two-handed Valyrian saber technique with an approach that favors improvised and other weapons, especially tanglefoot bags.  Only upon gaining their brown sashes do students learn that their fencing style reflects the natural abilities of the true master of the school: a tarry demodand.  Of course, they only learn this as they are being transported to the Abyss for their transformation into fiendish servitors and soldiers.

Betrayed and gassed into insensibility by a devil, adventurers awaken in a cell to the taunting laughter of a toothy, bat-winged beast dripping tar from every pore.  The good news is they are alive.  The bad news, as they will come to discover, is that they are in a prison, caged in a maze with the Planes’ forgotten hostages and misfits—and with a skeleton crew of tarry demodands as their jailors.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 71

The second episode of Welcome to Maryland is up!  Get it here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


The tarasque of legend may have been a relatively standard dragon, but the tarrasque of role-playing has become something else entirely: a mythic beast of utter destruction.  I don’t need to go through the litany of its attacks, defenses, regeneration, etc.—because they don’t matter; it simply cannot be killed.  The best you can hope for is to divert it, banish it to another realm of existence, put it to sleep, or prey for divine intervention…and even these methods will likely burn every wish and miracle the PCs can scrounge up.  It is, quite simply, a living apocalypse engine.  Its appearance alone is a history-making event, and any adventure that involves the tarrasque should take that into account.

Speaking of which, props to Pathfinder’s Golarion setting for working the tarrasque into the world’s very origin story.  The tarrasque is such an exceptional creature that it tends not to fit into most worlds because it raises so many questions: What spawned it, where has it been hiding all this time, why do the gods not get involved to stop it, etc.?  Golarion answers all those questions—the evil god Rovagug; the Pit of Gormuz; they have, but even they can only do so much—and gives the tarrasque equally terrible cousins besides (see the Inner Sea Bestiary or Mythic Realms).  All in all, a sign of really comprehensive worldbuilding.

A tarrasque comes out of the Emerald East, driving hitherto undiscovered creatures—girtablilus, vemeraks, kongamatos, and even the elusive cobra and hippopotamus lords before it.  Impaled upon one of its great horns is the broken body of the still-living asurendra foolish enough to have summoned it from the bowels of the earth.

The crew of a crashed voidship carries dire news: An asteroid has been pulled from the Shatter Belt and is hurtling earthward.  Investigation reveals a cabal of human cultists, moon-beasts, marsh giants, and rune giants have conducted dread rites to reknit the world’s ley lines into a glyph of summoning…and the Old Ones Beyond the Stars have answered.  An angelic cabal manages to deflect the asteroid enough so that it lands in the ocean, preventing an extinction event, but the asteroid hatches and a tarrasque emerges.

A dullahan of exceptional power rides into the capital with a message: The nation has been judged—and found wanting.  The tarrasque is coming.  The headless horseman is not the only herald—kytons begin evangelizing in the streets, offering freedom from fear through transformative pain, and an akhana and kolyarut take up residence on the cathedral dome as enigmatic witnesses.  But as the tarrasque nears, divination reveals it was supposedly sent by the gods of law and good.  If this is true, what foul act has inspired this Judgment Day?

Pathfinder Bestiary 262

I just got my email that says my copy of the Bestiary 4 is on its way.  I imagine the tarrasque will soon have some company in terms of sheer power…

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tarn Linnorm

Tarn linnorms are—wait.  Um…

tarn noun \ˈtärn\ : a small lake among mountains

Oh, right.  I knew that.

With two heads and an acidic breath weapon that is poisonous to boot, the CR 20 tarn linnorm is one of the most powerful and primordial non-unique linnorms around.  If you were a warrior in Golarion’s Land of the Linnorm Kings, bringing back both(!) heads of a tarn linnorm would see you installed on a throne for sure.  Tarn linnorms are proof that caves full of orcs and passes guarded by giants aren’t the only threats in the highlands.  The calm, placid loch that you’ve whiled away many an hour sculling across might actually be hiding a slumbering beast of tremendous power…

Speaking of which, I think the best use of a tarn linnorm might be against PCs who have never faced a linnorm before.  Imagine a campaign where defeating a certain dragon is supposed to be the climactic event.  Naturally, the party members have to build up to the deed—perhaps taking on a few smaller dragons or even one of their target dragon’s children.  Now at level 16 or 17, they’re almost ready.  But they hear of an old dragon who was an enemy of their nemesis and who may know how to kill it…or whose lair hides a powerful artifact.  Imagine their surprise when they meet this dragon, only to discover it’s like no dragon they’ve ever seen.  Imagine their surprise to discover it has not one, but two heads, and that neither head wanted to be woken up.  And should they kill it, their problems are only just beginning, because a tarn linnorm’s curse of death is potent indeed…

A beast called Grendel is supposed to live with his mother or mothers—tales differ—in the loch above Caer Tieg.  In reality the term “mother” is figurative; Grendel actually lives with his linnorm lover in a watery cave lined with cracked bones from their many, many victims.

Savarss wants to die—he is growing blind in one head and his other has nearly rotted off from gangrene—but the tarn linnorm cannot find a warrior in the highlands both mighty enough to finish the job and brave enough to risk his death curse.  He tears through village after village on his way south, aiming for the more cosmopolitan cities where there are dueling academies and magic colleges galore.  Surely he can find a dragonslayer in one of them…

The tarn linnorm Avantikatl slumbers in a lake in the cloud forest of Bolimar.  He is so old two different dynasties have built temples to honor him near his lair—temples now guarded by his couatl servants and interpreters.  Despite the differences in their alignment, the couatl’s revere him for his age and wisdom, and for his driving away a devil incursion in his youth.  By keeping him well fed and undisturbed, they are able to quell or divert his more murderous rampages.  Meanwhile, the cornugon he drove away wants revenge…

Pathfinder Bestiary 192

Hey, music peoples!  This Saturday involved a great show, great music, and I was on time.  So naturally, the feed decided to cut off my first song (the Mountain Goats’ “The Best Ever Death metal Band in Denton” from the recently re-released All Hail West Texas) for no reason I can figure out.  Sigh.

But you should download and enjoy, because it’s 80 minutes of new music and 40 minutes of awesome music.  Speaking of which, I’m loving Haley Bonar and I’ve even belatedly boarded the HAIM train…  But remember, the link is only good till Friday

Friday, October 18, 2013


These mysterious vessels may perplex scholars, but they’re perfect monsters.  A statue that swallows creatures is nasty.  A statue that shunts them into an airless extradimensional stomach is really nasty.  A statue that might either reward (with treasure from previous victims) or punish (with said previous victims, assuming they could survive without air) whoever destroys it is a video game monster come to life (in a good way).

PS: Golarion fans, there is a Runelord of Gluttony’s lair out there just waiting to be filled with these things.  (And since gluttony magic is also known as necromancy, some of these taotiehs should definitely have undead-filled stomachs waiting to be unleashed.)

A hungry ghost is terrorizing a medical school.  That is the theory at least—students are vanishing without a trace—but the young healers-in-training have had no luck rooting out the spirit.  The culprit is actually a taotieh placed on campus by a former rejected applicant.  Disguised as a guardian statue, the construct has orders to capture only students that it can catch alone.

A taotieh in a fallen dwarfhold hides more than one threat in its extradimensional belly.  Its dark creator placed a magically held devourer inside it as a booby trap.  More recently, within the last fortnight the cat statue swallowed two chardas.  The creatures immediately went into lifesaving hibernation and could well revive (and attack) if released.

Taotiehs are usually styled to look like tigers, but other varieties exist.  The feathered serpentfolk of Vhaaz naturally prefer reptilian motifs.  The tribesmen of the Hurn Highlands have taken up the worship of ogre deities, and were rewarded with a pot-bellied, bear-bodied, ogre-faced taotieh as a result.  Taotiehs resembling squid, octopi, gulper eels, and sharks are all that remain of the raised (and razed) former aboleth city of Bohm.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 260

Yes, the hungry ghost in a medical school above is a reference to Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior—absolutely required reading.

Always impressed that you can just drop a whole, unique campaign idea as just part of a single entry on this blog.  ‘Space-metal linnorm’ has so much potential…

Thanks!  Just doin’ my job. 

In Japanese folklore, tanukis have gigantic scrotums that are the source of their power.  In Pathfinder, they have a slam attack they can perform with their hands full. Just saying.

Y’know, I debated mentioning tanukis’ rather large…assets…in the post, and decided not to bother.  Clearly, I missed that special slam attack.  But keep in mind that—hang on, wait, wesschneider has something to add:

First, as you’re familiar with Pom Poko, consider why these guys have a slam attack… 0_0

Aw man, now even Wes is on my case!  I yield!  Let there be raccoon dog scrotums for everyone!  (Besides, I’m from Baltimore; we’re not exactly shy about that kind of thing.)

Anywhere, where were we?

Second, as a Night Vale listener and native Marylander a thousand thanks for posting that link!  That’s Awesome!

Glad you like it!  (Where are you from in Maryland?)  And actually, to be totally frank I did more for the show than just link.  (You may see a familiar name in the credits.)  Ironically, I won’t ever actually get to hear it live since it airs at the same time as mine…

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Anthropomorphic raccoon dogs, tanukis are pretty much destined to be comic relief.  I mean, this is a creature whose powers come from getting drunk.  (Yes, seriously.)  But comic relief doesn’t have to mean frivolous or unimportant—just look at any Terry Pratchett novel, or the kender in Dragonlance, whose great joy also allowed the reader to access sadness and loss.  So the jolly tanukis can still feature in adventures with big stakes, especially regarding the environment.  And as creatures that frequent the liminal borders of civilization, tanukis can be a great way to introduce PCs to adventures among the fey, kami, psychopomps, and other shapeshifters as well.

PS: I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t point you to the rich folklore about tanukis.  It’s not a world I know enough to speak much about, but from the little I have gleaned (thanks mostly to Pom Poko) it’s definitely worth checking out.

A kitsune enchantress (see the Dragon Empires Gazetteer or the Advanced Race Guide) has started building a “kingdom” of forestfolk—enlisting mainly other kitsune, brownies, centaurs, and disaffected half-elves.  Her court includes Uncle Pasha, an elder tanuki who spends his time getting roaring drunk and generally offending other courtiers.  Those who would cross the budding queen should beware, though: Uncle Pasha is actually a drunken master (see the Advanced Player’s Guide) of considerable skill who is deeply loyal to the fox-woman.

Few things are as abominable as an evil prankster.  Joshinji Banditheart is a tanuki gravedigger who visits grieving families in the guise (via veil) of their recently buried loved ones, then murders them partway through the joyous reunion.  He has recently become friendly with a redcap, and the pair are thinking of branching out into making leather goods from corpse skins.

Perhaps the spirit of a good tool can recognize the spirit of an evil weapon?  For when a gathering of tanukis attacks an adventuring party, it is not out of malice, but rather to rid them of the raktavarna the party members did not realize they were carrying.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 259

I admit it—my first exposure to tanukis was the tanuki suit in Super Mario Bros. 3.  But in terms of their personality, the Studio Ghibli film I mentioned earlier, Pom Poko, is my guide.  I highly recommend it.

Also, any Welcome to Night Vale fans out there?  Check out artisticlicensetokill’s university-themed homage Welcome to Maryland.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Taiga Linnorm

Linnorms love out-of-the-way places, and the boreal forests near the crown of the world are more out of the way than most. 

I especially like taiga linnorms for their sheer spikiness, which seems to both reflect their pine forest habitats and be a throwback to dragonkind’s wilder, less regimented days.  Of course some dragons should be so riddled with spines that it’s dangerous to even thrust a sword at one. Why not have a breath weapon of electrified vapor?  In the heart of the endless northern forests, who’s going to hear your PCs if they complain?

The Mammoth Hearts, a clan of taiga giants, have been enslaved by a taiga dragon.  Already their elephantine steeds have been devoured, and they fear worse fates for themselves.  Spurred on by a skull-faced alchemist whispering tales of glory in his earholes, the linnorm has used his electric breath to spark the machinery of an ancient city to life—machinery that could be used to turn the taiga giants into rune giants.

When meteors fall in the taiga, no man sees…but a dragon does.  The taiga linnorm Nebuchar has a passion for skymetal.  He gathers fallen meteorite fragments to ornament his lair and supplement his diet (making his spiny hide even harder in the process).  He also consumes or enslaves any creatures that might have ridden the falling stars to earth.  In particular, his lair (a nest of shattered pine trunks as large as a village) is riddled with akata cocoons that hatch when disturbed by treasure hunters.  He also has far more powerful beasts penned up near his hoard, including several mind-stealing yithians.

The bogatyr Pyter Ironhand scoffed at a taiga linnorm’s death curse—until the moment an upstart lightning-spewing sorcerer nearly laid him low in the market square.  Now feeling his mortality and his manhood is at stake, Ironhand demands to slay another such linnorm. His liege, less sanguine about his chances, strong-arms a party of adventurers to aid the knight-errant.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 184

Paizo has been running sneak peeks of the Bestiary 4 over on their blog, and these guys look like they’ll be fun.  Speaking of which, my copy is ordered and should be in my hands soon.  I’ll begin adding Bestiary 4 monsters into the roster starting with the letter U.  And yes, don’t worry, I do plan to circle back and cover the missing monsters from Bestiary 3 (letters A–D), 4 (A–T) and the Inner Sea Bestiary (A–M) once we’ve made it once through the alphabet the first time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Taiga Giant

I’m on record being skeptical about golem varieties.  (I don’t care how cool its powers are—a mask golem is still a mask golem.)  I have a similar kneejerk suspicions when it comes to new giant types: Not every terrain needs one.  (“Into the clearing charges…a subtropical fog forest giant!”)

I never felt that way with taiga giants.  Part of it is that there’d never been a taiga anything in role-playing before (at least that I knew of), so taiga giants felt new and original.  (Plus the whole spirit summoning thing is pretty cool.)  And part of it was pure worldbuilding: Taiga giants were introduced so tantalizingly early in the pages of Pathfinder (#4: “Fortress of the Stone Giants”) that they’ve always felt like an established part of the world.

So maybe that’s a good lesson to take from this monster.  Introduce a creature early enough in your campaign and it will feel natural from the outset.  If PCs have been hearing tavern tales of taiga giants since first level, they will believe in them as creatures, not stat blocks, when they finally arrive at the gaming table.

Not all the prospectors at Devil’s Gulch are human-sized.  A taiga giant who rarely speaks, Brewing Thunder is an enigmatic figure.  Parties that aid him—say, rescuing his pet dire bear from a bad fall—might even strike up a friendship of sorts.  But when gnome prospectors open the Cave of the Yellow Sign, Brewing Thunder is the first to go mad and begin killing.

The world is round…but it isn’t.  Elves and gnomes in particular speak of places in the taiga that defy the curve of the globe and stretch into other realms of existence.  They cannot reach these places alone—this is the price of their exile from the Fey Flowering—but taiga giants can, following their dire tigers and the spirits of their ancestors to such fabled retreats (and prisons) as Joyfall, Titanhope, Ur Leng, and the Cairn Glade.

A samsaran has fallen off the path of reincarnation.  To find her way again, she must commune with the spirits of her ancestors to find her own soul.  To do this, she and her friends must first bathe in the elemental-haunted streams of Mount Zenj, barter with changeling tinkers, and then travel to the Evertaiga where the spirits can be heard most clearly.  Unfortunately, her ancestors bear dismal news: Her soul is due to be burned for fuel in the Daemon Kiln by a taiga giant soul eater.

Pathfinder #4 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 131

For more on taiga giants, Jason Nelson serves up a chapter in Giants Revisited.

Also, we’ve hit a milestone: As of today, I have as many Tumblr followers as I do Tumblr posts.  That’s a follower a day!  Sincere thanks, you guys.

Sometimes I do things besides think about monsters.  Like help make music videos.

(PS: If you have a band or are a musician, this video is part of a contest.  You should enter.)