Friday, April 18, 2014


There’s a scene in The Vision of Escaflowne where the eponymous Guymelef (essentially a dragon-mech) is damaged and all seems lost.  Then the repair crew is summoned.  A rift opens in the sky, a ship featuring technology like nothing else in this fantasy series descends through the hole, alien creatures make the necessary repairs to Escaflowne, and then the ship disappears from whence it came.

At the time this scene drove me nuts, because a) it felt like a cheap deus ex machina, and b) the sci-fi elements totally ripped me out of Escaflowne’s world.  But over time, I’ve mellowed—I’m more into genre-bending Weird and New Weird Fantasy than I used to be, and I don’t need my worlds to be as neat and tidy anymore.  In other words, I’ve come to appreciate a little messiness. 

Witchwyrds are exactly that kind of messy…because they are, quite literally, out of this world.  Just when your players have a handle on a world of dragons and elves and even demons and angels, you throw a four-armed alien in a turban at them.  (“And does he have a deal for you!”)

On Golarion, witchwyrds are notable because their alien presence goes way back—I remember references to the mysterious Pactmasters of Katapesh in some of the earliest supplements—and it has since been confirmed that they are from Golarion’s Mars analogue, the red planet of Akiton.  In your campaign, they might be from anywhere, and what’s most notable about them is their four arms and their ability to manipulate force effects.  I’d suggest playing up this last bit: No matter what the spell name in the stat block, the witchwyrds’ use of its spell-like abilities should feel like one seamless whole.  The same mastery of power that allows them to levitate objects (floating disc, unseen servant) also allows them to defend themselves (resilient sphere, absorb force), hurl energy (force bolt), defy physics (displacement, dimension door), and otherwise be the consummate interplanetary merchants (detect magic, suggestion).

Also, witchwyrds join the mercanes and the denizens of Leng as Pathfinder’s core otherworldly mercantile races.  If I were going to systematize the three, I’d say that witchwyrds trade across the planets, mercanes trade across the planes, and the denizens of Leng trade across the dimensions and other realities.  But like we said at the top, maybe it’s better to resist the urge to clarify and systematize.  Since all three are going to go where the profits are, they could wind up trading anywhere with anyone.

A year of caravan work has yielded an adventuring party much gold, numerous experiences, and the trust of their employer…which in turn means the trust of his employer.  It turns out he answers to a holding company whose turban-wearing representative has decided to search for new markets to open.  Only after the adventurers sign on does the rep reveal that he is a witchwyrd…and these new markets are on other worlds.

Adventurers seeking the advice of a shedu have competition: a witchwyrd and his band of human, gnoll, and tiefling mercenaries.  The witchwyrd plans to make off with the shedu—to him the magical beast is prized cattle with the benefit of prescience to boost.  If the adventurers are overwhelmed, they may seek aid from a sect of kasathas that resent their ancient racial rivals’ meddling in their territory.

Deep in a temple complex, an incongruous artifact opens a magical portal to a shop manned by a witchwyrd.  Conveniently, the alien’s wares could mean the difference between life and death in the booby-trapped edifice.  Unfortunately, the shop has another patron: an imp the party has had dealings with in the past.  The imp reveals the party’s wealth (undercutting their efforts to haggle), tries to frame them for shoplifting, and otherwise makes a nuisance of himself.  But if the adventurers take any action against the devil, the witchwyrd will deem them bad customers and possibly send its clockwork entourage against them.

Pathfinder #14 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 2 285

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