Monday, January 27, 2014


Named after an Etruscan power of the afterlife, the vanth is one of the most iconic psychopomps: skeletal shape, black wings, bird mask, and, of course, a +1 adamantine scythe.  Vanths are found in the usual places, as well: gravesites, mausoleums, battlegrounds, etc.  (Though often they’re invisible—a good thing, since their fear aura leaves those under 10 Hit Dice shaken.)

What sets them apart is their sheer neutrality—no planar power, from angels to demons, is above a vanth’s suspicions—and their single-mindedness.  These psychopomps are so dedicated to harvesting souls that they will team up to fight astradaemons with more than double their Hit Dice.  Other deathly shepherds can be dealt with or distracted—a valkyrie might like a good fight or be persuaded to return a valiant hero to life, while a shinigami can sometimes be swayed or corrupted (being lawful means being part of a system, and that implies appeals processes, red tape, and sheer good ol’ corruption if you’re brazen enough to try it).  But vanths are beyond all such concerns…and when they deem it time to collect a soul, they allow nothing to get in the way.

A daemon pursues an adventuring party through a portal into Purgatory.  They are saved when a flock of vanths arrives to drive the daemon away.  Unfortunately, the daemon had one final trick up its sleeve: Anyone damaged by its melee attacks now appears dead to the spiritsense of a psychopomp.  As soon as the daemon is dealt with, the vanths turn on the unlucky members of the party, attempting to take escort them deeper into Death’s Realm.

The underworld of Port Holly is in uproar as rival factions attempt to find a “black bird” said to have been recovered from a templar order’s treasure ship.  The truth is even more outlandish: the black bird is no jewel-encrusted idol, but a casket containing a bound vanth.  The psychopomp is furious at its imprisonment and is anxious to get its treasure (a magic lamp containing the soul of an important templar) home to the Place of Judgment.  If freed, it will attack with fury for a handful of rounds, then attempt to escape back to Purgatory.

Shaymen Silverblade is a swashbuckling magus (with more than a little rogue in his past) whose exploits would make him famous all on his own.  But it is his sidekick, a skeletal vanth, that sets tongues wagging.  Having cheated death one too many times through various tricks and contingencies, Shaymen finally earned a personal visit from Purgatory.  His glib tongue must have been as quick as his blade, for the resulting deal he struck is now legend: that he would eschew all future resurrection attempts and surrender his soul willingly at his next demise—provided the vanth seeking his soul protected him until that time.  So now “the Silver Blade” has his “Sable Scythe” at his back, and his exploits have only gotten brasher.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #47 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 221

More on vanths can be found in Pathfinder Adventure Path #47: Ashes at Dawn.

Have a new radio show for your Monday!  Featuring Beck’s new track “Blue Moon,” the Hold Steady’s new track “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You,” and The Beards’ indescribable “You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man.”

(If the feed skips, let it fully load, then Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.  Link good till Friday, 1/31, at midnight.)

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