Thursday, February 13, 2014


I didn’t even notice the vishkanya entry when it appeared in the Bestiary 3; it wasn’t until I stumbled upon their chapter (and J. P. Targete’s absurdly cool illustration) in the Advanced Race Guide that I paid the race any attention.  Having finally seen them, I bet we see a lot more of them in the future. 

First off, they owe their existence to the poison damsels of Indian folklore—a great concept from a culture that’s due more limelight.  And in the Golarion setting, the clock is steadily ticking toward the day we get an India-inspired Adventure Path or Campaign Setting book—we’ve simply had too many monsters from Indian and Hindu folklore not to (and Vudra waits to be explored). 

And vishkanyas also fill that crucial role of The Poisonous Other Among Us.  In the world’s oldest role-playing game, pureblood yuan-ti fit the bill; in Pathfinder, vishkanyas are very capable heirs. The very notion of a creature whose blood and saliva are toxic also implies alienness, conflict, and questions of safety, identity, and morality.  And if I wanted to do a more Vampire: The Masquerade-style campaign of intrigue and invasion (especially inspired by the Setites or the Kuei-Jin), vishkanyas would be the perfect adversaries…or very complicated allies…

Adrift in a world that seems to have no place for it, an android is overjoyed to find herself befriended by a glamorous vishkanya.  The vishkanya is happy to teach the synthetic humanoid how to fit in and hide her exotic heritage.  In return she asks the android to run small favors and perform simple errands…until the day she asks the android to put a few drops from a stoppered vial into a magistrate’s dinner…

Adventurers are tasked with transporting a vishkanya prisoner between two cities.  But how do you hold a prisoner who’s very saliva is a weapon, and who can squeeze out of almost any bond?  When they do get to their destination city, they find the jail meant to house the vishkanya is still under renovation, and the digging has uncovered a much older, darker prison complex beneath.

The Serpent War has spilled out of the shadows and onto the streets of the Godkissed Cities.  Lamia nobles and naga lords wage war via vishkanya proxies who brawl in the streets, putting ordinary citizens at risk and exposing the local aristocrats for the puppets they are.  But pulling the strings behind both sides is a vishkanya bard and assassin determined to shed the snake-monsters’ influence over his race like so many old scales…

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 281

I swear that I read somewhere that, aside from mythology, vishkanyas also owed their inspiration to some video game baddie, but I cannot for the life of me find the post where I saw that.

Following up on my rant from yesterday, the obvious next question is: Do I like No Quarter, which serves the Warmachine and Iron Kingdoms fandoms?  In fact, I picked up and read three issues from a game store I stumbled upon near Albany this summer.  And I should like it: It’s a truly professionally done magazine, the cover and interior art is striking, and there were oodles and oodles of lore and flavor throughout both the miniatures and role-playing-related articles.  There was even honest-to-God short fiction in one issue!  Like it?  I should love it!

Sadly…something just didn’t click for me, and I don’t know what it is.  (It’s the same problem I had with 4e—an elusive something in the writing just wasn’t there.)  I’ll definitely pick up another issue if I ever run across one, but at the moment, No Quarter is a puzzle to me: The ingredients for a great read were all there, but I found no satiation.

That said, does anyone know if the d20 Iron Kingdoms rules/setting books were any good?  Were they something I should keep my eye out for?  (In other words, as good as Scarred Lands or Freeport?)  Let us know!

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