Back when I was a “basic” D&D player, I examined the many AD&D articles and adventures in Dragon Magazine and Dungeon (which is to say, practically all of them) like someone peering through a fence at a construction site, straining for a glimpse of the building inside. So I remember vividly that the demon that appeared in the very first issue of my short-lived Dungeon subscription (and which I can’t currently find, so if anyone has #25 I’ll take it) was a vrock, in the adventure “The Standing Stones of Sundown.” I’ve liked them ever since.
For a detailed look at the vulture-headed vrock’s ecology, abilities, and tactics, James Jacobs’s Demons Revisited has you covered. Instead I want to talk about the vrock’s significance and versatility.
There’s a reason vrocks were “Type I” demons in 1e—they perfectly demonstrate the entire suite of nasty demon abilities: wicked special attacks; corruption (in the form of spores); the ability to buff themselves, evade or confuse others, summon aid, and attack outside the box (telekinesis is the Swiss Army knife of evil…and evil GMs); and they’re absolutely brutal in groups. They represent wrath and ruin—pretty much the ur-impulses of demons everywhere—and they can be found almost anywhere in the Abyss that has a sky. Outstanding.
Plus, there’s also just something about them. It’s nice to find a fiend that doesn’t look like the typical gargoyle but is still clearly a fiend. The vrock is always a demon but never cliché. And its vulture-like nature fits in just about any setting. I’d be reluctant to put, say, 20th-century private eyes or 17th-century musketeers against the bat-winged thing from Fantasia—it would feel a little silly to me—but I’d use vrocks in a heartbeat. In a Classical setting vrocks might be servants of Hecate of Greece or Nekhbet or Set of Egypt. I can easily imagine cosmologies (like Eberron’s) that throw out the categories of demon and devil altogether—in such settings, a fiend is a fiend is a fiend—but I would still use vrocks with enthusiasm. Wrathful, ruinous, bloodthirsty, and shrieking, vrocks deserve a place on your gaming mat.
Summoner Weston Lin is a budding demonologist with an eidolon whose resemblance to a vrock (see Ultimate Magic) is unmistakable. Or rather, Lin was—because the vrock he just attempted to summon gutted him like a trout. Now two vulture-headed beasts rampage through the city: the vrock and Lin’s now-unfettered eidolon, driven mad by grief and rage. Woe betide the party that encounters the eidolon and accidentally uses up the resources they’d been saving to face the demon.
Overfond of mortal flesh (in every sense), vrock matron Tessar Gzyllack has tended clutch after clutch of half-vrocks (see Demons Revisited), who in turn have spawned tieflings far and wide. Now Tessa seeks to gather her hook-nosed descendants to her for an as-yet-unspecified dark purpose. She has turned the storage wing of the art museum into her rookery, allowing her to destroy things of beauty at her leisure while she tracks down her kin.
As the armies of the Second Confederacy and Mexico bear down on him, the High Inquisitor of the Theocracy of California is desperate for an edge. He forces the shamans of several local Native American tribes to perform their war rites over his men, hoping to bend the power of their faith to the service of his own. The heresy must be answered, and instead of a blessing and visions of eagles, a gang of vrocks led by a mythic vrock manifests and begins a dance of ruin. Any mercenaries and adventurers in the area will have to act fast to save innocent (and not-so-innocent) lives.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 69
PS: Mythic Adventures has a mythic vrock, for those who want new ways to beef up this already nasty threat.
The hillside chalk images and eponymous standing stones of Sundown were inspired by those in England. I was lucky enough to get to see some of them over my holiday break last winter—very cool.
Still behind on reader mail and comments, but since we’re on the subject of Dragon Magazine, dr-archville responded thus to my question about favorite issues. (Go read the whole thing, then tell us yours!) The first issue he mentions, #188, has a great Elmore cover and an Ed Greenwood “Wizards Three” article. It also features the end of an era: the last installment (barring one or two by-popular-demand revisits) of Bruce Heard’s “Voyage of the Princess Ark,” which you’ve heard me rave so much about.
Also check out his responses to many of our recent monster entries posts; just add a /tagged/Pathfinder and you’ll find them easily.