Ah, the viduus! Our third monster in four days from the Inner Sea Bestiary and our second from Wes Schneider. We’ll let him kick off the discussion again:
With a name drawn from an obscure Roman death god, viduuses are the insufferable bookkeepers of death. They have that information your character NEEDS, but are so process-minded and disconnected there’s no way they’re going to give it to you willingly.
So it’s likely that these psychopomps are monsters to be persuaded, tricked, or otherwise “defeated” in a social matter. You’re probably not going to fight them with swords; you’ll be fighting them with words to get past them or get to the knowledge they know. They’re the librarians, clerks, and receptionists who won’t let you access that hard-to-find but crucial record. (“I don’t let anyone consult the files who doesn’t have a pass. Oh, you do have a pass? That’s in storage. I’ll put in an order to have it pulled. Come back in a century.”)
And if you do fight…well, CR 4 isn’t exactly a high number, but their memory-rewriting/wiping censor and expurgate abilities could derail a party quite tidily. (And should you actually kill one and weather the mind fog transformation, you can bet a) one of those centipedes is going to eventually grow into the same or an equally obnoxious viduus and b) you’re going to have trouble with pretty much every other psychopomp in the future.)
Of course, given the artwork (rectangular specs, vest, stringy hair) and certain words like “insufferable,” it’s hard not to also think of the viduus as the hipster psychopomp. Face it: He was following obscure souls before it was cool. Oh, and you’re not on the guest list.
(PS: I am allowed to make fun of hipsters because duh. It’s not mean if it’s self-parody. PS: You want to be in my friends’ music video?)
Of course, that might not be quite what the creator intended…
I was hoping these guys would come out a bit more imposing and alien looking, but they ended up going a more Alice in Wonderland route with their caterpillar look—which is totally cool too. Definitely a niche psychopomp, but a fun one.
…but I think it totally works as one possible role-playing hook. (And besides, half of Planescape’s appeal was Tony DiTerlizzi’s art, and he even made demons look like Alice in Wonderland.)
Anyway, onto the viduus adventure hooks:
A party of adventurers awakens cocooned in silken threads and hanging from the ceiling of a dusty library. They have no memory of how they got there…or of anything else, for that matter. Once they escape their bonds, investigation reveals they have run afoul of a rogue viduus…and if they want their memories back, they will have to defeat the psychopomp and find the books where their lost biographies are transcribed.
Reiner Forth is the hero of Dyson Town—there is a statue in town that proves it. Wyvern Tamer, Manticore Slayer, Peryton’s Bane. There is only one problem: Reiner stole the accomplishments of Rayne North after discovering Rayne was a woman living as a man. (He was serving as Rayne’s spear bearer at the time). One black market feeblemind and a dress later, Reiner deposited the now confused and despondent Rayne at a priory and returned home with North’s arms, wardrobe, fortune, and reputation. A connoisseur of exceptional souls, the viduus Mordelar is determined to restore Rayne’s reputation. But Reiner Forth will not give up his stolen identity without a fight, and after one close encounter with Mordelar he recruits unknowing adventurers to his side to deal with the troublesome psychopomp.
The Afterlife is clearly not as the priests have described it. A risky journey to the Beyond reveals not the Golden Apple Orchards of Fiera or the Field of Warriors’ Repose, but a cobweb-strewn government building staffed by harried psychopomps and lined with wispy petitioners. Finding records on the soul the adventurers have come to research involves avoiding the attentions of mephit pranksters, attacks from truculent tiefling thugs, a basement full of dretches, and talking their way past an obdurate viduus just reincarnated after a run-in with the last group of adventurers to pass this way.
—Inner Sea Bestiary 41
PS: Since this week is a Schneider-fest, let’s cover some bookkeeping. That same blog post also discusses the inspiration for the shoki (which we covered here), and the termagant kyton (which we covered here). Wes was also kind enough to leave us a comment about the termagant, but it was around the time of my Disney trip and I don’t think I ever got a chance to point you all to it.
By the way, thanks to all my regular readers for liking, commenting, and reblogging! The end of the alphabet contains a lot of obscure monsters (and my posting at the crack of midnight the past few weeks hasn’t exactly helped build readership) so I appreciate you sticking around!