Monday, December 9, 2013


The Germanically named totenmaske (“death mask”) hails from the wild and woolly early days of Pathfinder (#3: The Hook Mountain Massacre, to be precise).  I’m especially fond of it for avoiding the default undead physiognomy.  It’s not a pale corpse by any means, but a vibrantly green, moldy, fleshy…thing…with a flesh-shaping power set that recalls the Morlock Masque from the X-Men comics.  (That power set, by the way, is terrifying to me (as I bet it is to most players)—I’d rather lose a +2 weapon to a rust monster than have one of my PC’s faces turned into a lumpy mess.)  It also features the obsession with sin that many early Pathfinder monsters had, going out of its way to sample the pleasures, sensations, and vices of the flesh.

Speaking of which, don’t let the Teutonic name box you into only using totenmaskes in your fantasy Switzerland.  Their carnal natures recall the monsters of both Near and Far East—you could imagine them serving as minions of rakshasas, partnering with doppelgangers, or competing with various greedy oni and other spirits.  Wherever there are sensations to steal, a totenmaske might be wearing someone’s skin.

The Monastery of the Stern Horse Master serves the parish of Wineapple—or did, before a totenmaske moved in and began consuming the friars one by one.  So far its predations have gone unnoticed—the monks have their own cells and spend half the week silent, so it has gone unchallenged as of yet.  The totenmaske knows it should move on before it is discovered, but it has become obsessed with the sarcophagi in the monastery basement, and spends hours examining the death masks it has found there…for what reason it cannot say.

Among the beggars of Shaipur, the reshaping touch of the totenmaske is considered lucky…or at least practical.  (Local custom looks in favor on giving alms to lame beggars, whereas able-bodied ones are beaten as lazy sinners).  The more unscrupulous beggar clans have been known to expose young ignorant recruits to a captive totenmaske’s touch before assigning them a corner.

The Z’karti are dirt drow—a derogatory name for clans driven out of their ancestral homes, who must eke out a living in the barren levels perilously close to the scorching surface.  Along the way, the Z’karti also lost their gift for fleshwarping, and their new chief is determined to rediscover the secret by studying totenmaskes.  He has found a colony of the undead creatures but has so far failed to catch them, and many of his men are marred in both body and spirit by the totenmaskes’ attacks.

Pathfinder #3 82–83 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 269

Radio troubles have multiplied.  Not only could I not get into the station on time, but every DJ’s show this week had major sound quality issues.  If you’re intrepid, here’s the link; otherwise, this one’s skippable.

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