Thursday, July 31, 2014


Just a placeholder post tonight. Spent all day helping artisticlicensetokill move into a wheelchair-accessible apartment, and the Internet is still down. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


You won't find two of the best Pathfinder monsters in the Bestiaries.  The terrifying charau-ka (from Pathfinder Adventure Path #40 and The Inner Sea World Guide) and the straight-out-of-a-pulp-novel angazhani or high girallon (from Heart of the Jungle) brachiated their way into other books.  Thankfully, the baregara is still howling through the pages of the Bestiary 3.

Falling just short of true demon status, baregaras are the apes of the Abyss, moving in troops and spreading terror throughout the evil plane’s jungles.  (A baregara’s monstrous challenge, the ability to grapple with one arm, and the giant mouth in the center of its chest to bites whatever it’s grappling helps with the whole terror thing.)  They don't have much in the way in magic, but what they do have allows them to get the drop on PCs quite effectively, with a barrel of dire apes or girallons allies to boot.  (See what I did there?)

And let’s be clear—you don't have to wait till PCs reach the Abyss to deploy these things.  There are plenty of savage spellcasters happy to summon these creatures.  (You can feel free to fudge level limits as well—NPCs have access to all kinds of rites, rituals, and artifacts PCs don’t, especially when they live in a blood-soaked temple forgotten by time.)  And plenty more baregaras have probably found their way to the Material Plane of their own accord.  Zoos can’t even keep orangutans in their cages, so what do you expect from demon orangutans?

(Murder.  You can expect murder.)

I should check myself before I leave the impression that these creatures are brutes, though.  Wild, sure.  But at Int 15 and Wis 16, they’re smarter than even the armor-wearing high girallons, and even without telepathy they speak four languages, including Draconic.  So imagine Planet of the Apes.  Now imagine Zira, Cornelius, and Dr. Zaius as demons.  The movie would have been a lot shorter…

A crime lord has seized control of the sumo wrestling circuit.  Those wrestlers who do not submit to the fixed matches and choreographed fights find themselves “invited” to more private matches—against the crime lord’s pet baregara.

A baregara troop attacks a party of adventurers…and then pulls back.  The adventurers apparently have a memento that marks them as untouchable.  Still the baregara troop shadows them for miles, occasionally testing the party with summoned girallons or unholy blight effects.  Eventually, their greed for the trophy gets the better of them and they attack.

“There…has been an insult.”  So says the red dragon currently demanding an adventuring party’s help.  “I cannot act.  But you can.”  A baregara managed to abduct her wyrmlings, blackmailing the dragon into surrendering her hoard and her mountain hold full of slaves.  If the adventurers rescue her children, the red dragon will be in their debt—assuming she honors her word.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 34

I think apes are creepy—clearly an uncanny valley response—so I highly approve of demon-apes as villains. 

And 3.5 players, don’t feel left out—these adventure seeds will likely work just as well for the bar-lgura from Book of Vile Darkness and Hordes of the Abyss.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Bandersnatches are consummate hunters,” begins the Bestiary 3 entry on these members of the Tane.  If anything, the Bestiary is guilty of understatement.  As creatures of the Golarion setting’s First World, bandersnatches are more than hunters: They are the rough draft of hunting itself.  Bounding over any terrain, at home on any plane, able to track relentlessly, shrugging off debilitating conditions in mere seconds, and dispensing quills and sheer pain in equal measure, bandersnatches embody the hunt like nothing this side of Herne or Cernunnos.

As with the other Lewis Carroll creations that made it into the Bestiary 3, Pathfinder gets points for making what could have been an utterly silly monster absolutely terrifying.  Check out all the variants, for instance.  “Oh, you want your bandersnatches frumious?  No problem—now they're on fire, hasted, and CR 19.  You’re welcome.”

Also, I don’t think it’s an accident that the Pathfinder’s bandersnatch shares some visual cues with Avatar: The Last Airbender’s shirshus.  While the more powerful varieties would beyond the reach of mortal handlers, lesser bandersnatches (or even smaller/younger variants) might well be found as mounts for high-level hunters, especially the servants of a powerful empire.

Following the regent’s usurpation of the throne, everyone assumes the dauphin is dead.  But when the new tyrant imports a lesser bandersnatch and its handler into the capital, wags begin to mutter that the boy must still be at large.  Tasked with saving a prince they cannot find, adventurers have no choice but to follow the bandersnatch and hope they arrive before the magical beast has the future king for supper.

Traveling through the azata realms will allow a party to access a back door into the Abyss.  To obtain safe passage, though, they need a boon from Cernunnos.  The best way to earn it: Bring him the hide of a bandersnatch.

The greatest hero of the Irsen folk is always a barbarian and mythic champion whose rage takes the form of a mighty warp-spasm.  But when Saoirse Silkwood bound Darach of Shannon, the aranea trickster goddess actually carved the warp-spasm out of the current Irsen champion.  The loosed rage became a frumious bandersnatch that bounded away.  Mightily weakened, Darach needs others to capture the bandersnatch so he may invoke his warp-spasm once again.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 32–33

What was the first hint that my college’s rare books library was awesome?  When it held an exhibition of prints for an edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland done by Salvador Dalí.  (My second hint was having a homework assignment where I was sent to look up a word in a first edition of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language.  The massive Tom of Finland exhibit they did was pretty cool, too, though I’ll confess to being more of a Gil Elvgren man, myself.)

If you’re looking for the baluchitherium, we covered it just a few days ago.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Creatures from Japanese mythology that resemble floating, tusked tapirs, bakus feed on sleeping folks’ dreams.  On the whole they are indifferent to PCs, though they might serve as allies if the characters show an appetite for fighting night hags.  They also come well armed with dream claws that act as magic cold iron against fey and demons who are vulnerable to such weapons. 

But their hunger for dreams and creativity can make these magical beasts the bane of artists, bards, and spellcasters who need a full night’s rest.  To those who can see past invisibility, the sight of a baku drifting in and out of unsuspecting folks’ bedrooms must be a disturbing one indeed.

The serpentfolk race rests in its epoch-long slumber…and bakus feast on their dreams.  But something is hunting the magical beasts.  With fewer bakus to devour their troubling nightmares, the serpentfolk are beginning to waken.  Meanwhile, the bakus that remain are restless with fear and attack all who approach.

An adventurer discovers her sister is not her sister at all, but an animate dream she gave form to as a child.  Worse yet, a baku has moved into the region and intends on reducing the dream-sister to cud.

Adventurers get themselves into trouble in Crone Row and need to flee before the night hags find out who is to blame.  A baku offers to guide them out of the Ethereal Plane, through a bizarre wonderland of talking plants and sparrow-like tengus, but his price is sampling—and possibly modifying—a memory once a day.  If the adventurers renege at any point in the journey, the baku instead leads them into a valley of nightgaunts and ethereal jaunts away.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 31

Did someone say tapirs?

After way, way too long an absence, I was back on the air this week.  My volume levels are still all over the place as I fight with the board, but the songs are good.  Check out the Muffs, Tove Lo, a Ramshackle Glory song I only just recently discovered, plus some DJ Krush for you old-school trip-hop fans.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 25, 2014


Fridays are turning into Whale Days here at The Daily Bestiary.


Whaling is a brutal hunt in the best of circumstances, over many bloody leagues of ocean.  It is no wonder then, given whales’ innate intelligence and the pain of the harpoon and the chase, that many of them rise as undead creatures.  Sadly, they don’t confine their hatred just to those who wronged them, but to any vessel or port that reminds them of their pain.  Worse yet, their flesh is infectious, turning their parasites necrotic and gathering scores of undead fish and birds in their wake.  A bakekujira is not just an undead abomination; it is an unnatural disaster.

An adventurer finds a diary that appears to belong to one of her family members.  The handwritten journal gives an account of the relative’s years on a whaling vessel.  The relative appears to be hunting the same bakekujira the adventurer is hunting now.  Stranger still, the many descriptions of ship designs and gunnery imply that the diary comes from the future.

A bakekujira destroyed the fishing village of Rabbit Foot Bay, crushing the boats and smashing every pier to splinters.  Now, as if uncertain as to what to do, it has beached itself in the rice paddies outside of town, where it spends its time singing haunting melodies.  The local governor wants the undead whale destroyed before it levels another port—or, worse yet, travels inland on the Shogun’s Road.  The priest caste, on the other hand, is convinced that violence will only beget more violence.  They, too, seek to hire adventurers who will bring the whale peace, either by a musical exorcism or by leading it to seas far from the shipping lanes of man.

The whales of the great voids, the astral leviathan and the oma (see Distant Worlds), have their own bakekujiras.  Most of these are the results of hunting by astral and stellar whalers.  But necrotic pulses from the coal-shrouded planets of the Night Brethren are known to corrupt whole pods of oma, who then rage toward the nearest trade route or starport.  The astral variety are usually found singly, but are often trailed by recently minted devourers.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #59 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 15

I didn't mention it above, but the folklore of the bakekujira is worth the read.  Check it out!

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Imagine you are going to create a new RPG underworld.  This is your Darklands, your Underdark, your Deepearth, your Khyber.  Where do you start?

Well, first you take some drow and duergar and aboleths and—

No.  That underworld is fascinating, magical, alive—so much so that it stretches from Oerth to Toril to Golarion.  It is the template, the standard by which all other realms below are judged.  It is many things…but it is not new.

What about a back-to-basics approach?  Dragons, demons, goblins, orcs?  But the long shadows of The Lord of the Rings movies are inescapable.  You want your players in their heads, not Peter Jackson’s.

Then you think of Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Hollow World setting.   You could always do dinosaurs.  You think of Wolfgang Baur’s cities of ghouls and Lovecraft’s cities of ghouls, gugs, and worse.  You think of VanderMeer’s Ambergris and his mushroom people and Jonathan M. Richards’s fungal ghosts, bugs, and chelonians.  4e D&D’s evershifting Underdark has a road made by a crawling, dying god.  You could start anywhere.

You open the Bestiaries.  You flip through the pages.  You don't know where you’re going…but you know where you’re going to start.  Like an ancient Egyptian explaining the mysteries of heaven and earth, you start with a dung beetle.  A dung beetle the size of a car with the face of a Buddha that bores through the planet’s crust, leaving holes for you to fill. 

Eventually there will be flail snail poets and mad dire corbies and glittering crysmals and kyton pain priests and genies made of rock and psionic elasmosauruses and oni prison wardens and fetchling monks and living tattoos that ride flesh golem mounts and who knows what else… 

But your new underworld starts with the azruverda.

An oread priest sees the bug-like azruverdas as parasites in the heart of the stone that he worships.  He leads a battalion into the dark to exterminate the creatures, failing to recognize their intelligence or benevolence.  Depending where their sympathies lay, adventurers might be called upon to aid in the crusade, spirit azruverdas from harm, show the priest the error of his ways, or protect the poor infantrymen who have no idea that they are about bring war to foes who can each control up to two full-grown purple worms…

Drow colonists cannot understand why their spider mounts become more unruly the deeper they travel.  The expedition leader wants to get to the bottom of this mystery before the superstitious males decide the Goddess has cursed their endeavor.  She’s so desperate she’s even willing to consider hiring the surface-dwelling swine she finds at a shaitan trading post.

Most azruverdas are content to tend their subterranean gardens, but a few exceptional individuals may be found elsewhere.  Azruverdas have been spotted in the petrified forests of Tauvin, rearranging the fossil trees and tending the mad escapees from the portal to Leng that lies farther up the slope.  Twice-dead berserkers report azruverdas are the last kind faces one meets as one descends the World Ash into Linnormheim.  And at least one azruverda holds a position in the desert church of the Sun God, acting out the Allfather’s daily ride across the sky in high holiday ceremonies (and protecting the temple from vermin assaults by the Set-Betrayer’s priest-assassins).

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 30

You can actually ignore the “face of a Buddha” comment above, because azruverdas weren’t quite supposed to look like that.  Wes Schneider tells the entire tale of the azruverda’s origin and unique appearance in a pretty epic blog post.  (Given that he’s also schooling the Internet on gorgons and helping to support trans* gamers, this has been a pretty big week for him.)

Also, I’ll once again plug Dragon #267 as a must-find back issue for anyone interested in rethinking the Underdark.  It’s positively outstanding.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Augurs are basically flying puns: they pair the gift of commune with a desire to carve up their victims.  (Emily Dickinson much?)

And that desire is a pretty profound one, as it happens.  I’ve mentioned before (in a pretty detailed post) that I try to avoid simply equating kink with evil, but let’s face it: augurs are voyeurs with a sadistic fetish for bloodletting.  It’s right in the Bestiary 3’s text: “Augurs, like most kytons, find themselves in a heightened state of arousal when witness to the destruction of flesh[…]  Many augurs cannot help but indulge themselves when exposed to gore—rolling within and dipping their blades into freshly spilled pools.”

So when you encounter a spellcaster with an augur familiar, you know you’re encountering two very cracked individuals—the unhinged floating ball of perversion and the psychopath who summoned it.  Surgeons who disdain anesthetic, artists who prefer unwilling flesh for their canvases, natural philosophers trying to get to the bottom of what exactly pain is, and libertines who can no longer differentiate between pleasure and agony…these are the types of spellcasters who bond with augurs.

As for augurs alone…well, you almost have to pity them.  Little more than a mind and an eyeball inside a fleshy, blade-covered shell, an augur craves order and dominance but lives in utter slavery to its lusts.

Carter Hawksblood is a cold-blooded sniper (see the Advanced Player’s Guide) with an unusual spotter: an augur.  Though not technically a familiar the augur aids Carter in all things, eagerly hunting down targets obscured by cover.  The reason for the augur’s loyalty is simple: Carter donated his left eye to the kyton’s creation.

A charlatan all his life, Xeno the Wise traded his soul to a kyton for a chance at true foresight.  He was promptly turned into an augur and left to haunt the Northchurch bell tower.  He still practices haruspicy on the belfry’s bat swarms—and any adventurers who happen by—but the mad creature still doesn't realize his art only works once a week.

Adventurers have two hours to rescue Sir Lyon’s betrothed from the Sisters of the Lash.  If they fail to meet the deadline, the Sisters will release their famous Thing in the Iron Box to “play” with the blushing maid.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 171

Imagine the safe sex PSA possibilities! “A safeword a day keeps the kyton away.”  “Friends don’t let friends play with augurs.”  …I should stop now.

Readers be riffin’!  Going back a few days, dr-archville teased out the connection between ash giants and giant vermin.  Kinak took my atomie psychopomp idea and ran with it, proposing they ride zoog steeds.  Faithful fortooate reminded us that paying attention to the Little Folk can yield good intel.  And demiurge1138 revealed he has a Pathfinder Society adventure to his name (The Horn of Aroden) that features some atomies.

Confession time: I have never played or even read a single Pathfinder Society selection.  (Only so many hours in the day, what with Adventure Paths, Player Companions, Campaign Settings, and Modules.  That copy of Infinite Jest is never going to get read, is it?)  Does anyone have a Top 5 list for me?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I don't recall atomies being so warlike in the world’s oldest role-playing game—pixies were always the more martial fey, especially in “basic” D&D—but in Pathfinder atomies rattle their tiny sabers (or rapiers) indeed.  The Bestiary 3 says they “never back down from aggression, and take tremendous pride in defeating and humiliating foes larger than themselves”…so atomie encounters basically write themselves.  (“Add blowhard adventurers.  Mix well.”)

Assuming you play them for comic relief, atomies can be hilarious at the gaming table.  And we have plenty of role models: Harry Dresden’s sidekick Toot-toot comes almost straight out of the Bestiary 3, and Labyrinth’s Sir Didymus works as well.

But taken seriously as saboteurs, sneak attack specialists, and reduce person-hurling bombardiers, atomies can be straight-up solid assailants (or allies), especially if they've earned some class levels along the way. Despite their distractible natures, atomies are steadfast in their roles as guardians of the woods and its many dryads, nymphs, and grigs.  Who needs a white knight when you have green on your side?

An owlbear has been sighted in the woods!  In the little hamlet of Telam, this is big news: The last owl bear slew eight men before it was brought down, and portraits of the successful hunters still hang in the town hall.  In truth, the “owlbear” is a hoax perpetrated by a band of atomies and some clever puppetry.  They hope to warn folk away from a cache of gold they recently discovered too close to their tree home.

A bard wants to perform in the Springheel Rounds, a music competition usually reserved for grigs.  Part race and part recital, the bard and his companions must speed from the edge of the forest to its heart and arrive before the last fey entrant.  Among other hazards, several gangs of atomies flitter in the way.  Then again, befriending some of these atomies might ease the final stretch of the race, which involves a maze of oak roots.  Such a labyrinth would be difficult for a full-size human to navigate, and reduce person or shrink item could ease the trial significantly.

Elves have spirits, not souls.  So no psychopomp comes to claim them after death.  A secret society of atomies has that role, and they guard it jealously.  Adventurers who enter Fernhope Wood on clerical business or accompanied by a nosoi find themselves confronted by warriors decked out in squirrel skull masks, brandishing rapiers, and tolerating no excuses.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 28

I’ve sung its praises several times before, but Dragon Magazine #155 may be one of the most perfect issues in the magazine’s entire print run: stunning cover, great theme (that carries all the way through even the fiction), two elven subraces and four new gods, an ecology, an entire Dungeon adventure(!) (sadly only available in print versions, I believe), “The Voyage of the Princess Ark”…heck, even “The Marvel®-Phile.”  But I bring it up today because the adventure seeds in Vince Garcia’s “The Folk of the Faerie Kingdom” are pretty much why this blog exists…and were my introduction to atomies.  Worth tracking down.

Also, I went back and double-checked: Atomies were actually portrayed in the 2e Monstrous Manual as so flighty that they avoid sprites for being too serious.  Clearly atomies were traumatized by the Great Fey Purges of 2000 and 2003, hence their more combative attitude today.

Elves having souls rather than spirits is an element from Tolkien’s legendarium.  It’s been referenced off and on in gaming—mostly off—but it played a big role in the Ghostwalk setting.  Honestly, in Pathfinder gnomes would be the more appropriate candidates for such an alternate afterlife, but I’m a traditionalist.

This is why I can’t take a day off—because the second I do someone awesome links to me and I look stupid for having a placeholder post up.  *facepalm*  Sorry to any first-time visitors who were disappointed by the lack of space whales this weekend.  And cheers to Hammith for both the link and a very nice email!  Hammith also wrote a post of more than 20 adventure seeds that you should totally check out.  I like the darkmantle, ettercap, desert caravan, and town inside a turtle shell especially.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Literally “asura-lords,” asurendras are just that: lords of the asura race, second only to the mighty and unique asura ranas.  As powerful as most of the lords of the other outsider septs—and possibly more varied in terms of abilities—these entities are the result of countless of cycles of reincarnation spent working toward the unmaking of the gods’ creations.  At once beautiful and monstrous, meditative and murderous, ascetics who revel in corpse eating, asurendras are creatures of contradictions who have several lifetimes, long even by immortal standards, with which to carry out their goals.

Asuras can claim no one plane as their own—so Blood Upon the Blade claims two.  His palace exists partly in Hell and partly on the Material Plane, tucked into the dome of the Ahi Mahal, which he long ago convinced the caliph to deconsecrate and turn into a pleasure palace.  It is said that Blood Upon the Blade’s three heads allow him to keep one set of eyes in each plane—saving his third and final set to always be watchful that his zahhak servant (see Pathfinder #24) remains loyal to him and not the divs.

The Queen Consort of Bones is a blasphemous sage of death.  She likes to wander from conflict zone to conflict zone with her asura and undead servants, posing as a charitable religious order but spreading death, disease, famine, and unbelief.  An adventuring party might travel the globe detecting signs of her passage, but only the most powerful will be able to track her down.  Those who do should be warned she is never without at least one gashadokuro lover, with whom she shares a taste for fresh corpses.

A blasphemous sage of shaping, the asurendra Tang Lok Tarl travels from world to world reshaping primordial life to his desires and planting tripurasura minions to divert the faiths of nascent civilizations.  While it is not true he created the first disenchanter, it is true that his voidjammer, modeled to resemble a mammoth’s head, is practically an ark for rare and mutated creatures.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 24–25

I keep trying to think of ways to conceptualize asuras and it can be hard, especially if your multiverse already contains demons, devils, daemons, divs, and Lovecraftian horrors all at once.  Setting aside the Lovecraftian beasties—they’re from another dimension after all—maybe a useful way to think of all these outsiders is in terms of American political parties.  If demons and devils are the two main parties—and no, I don't really believe that; I vote every election; I’m just making an analogy here—daemons act like third-party spoilers diverting soul-votes from the others.  Divs are basically a loud special interest group, rakshasas are a greedy Chamber of Commerce…and asuras?  Asuras are the ones who want to bring the whole system down—the bomb-throwing anarchists who give even other anarchists a bad name.  The other outsider races may have more power in general, but asuras have several immortal lifetimes to plan.  And the results of their plots are often the black swan events (if you’ll excuse the trendy term) that have outside effects across the multiverse.  After all, in our world the bullet of one nationalist launched the Great War…a great shuffling of power that would lay the groundwork for World War II, which set up the sides for the Cold War and redrew the map for the regional conflicts plaguing so much of our present history…you get my drift, even if I’m playing very, very fast and loose with the history.  My point is, asuras don't have to be many or even the most mighty to make even Heaven and Hell tremble…

Friday, July 18, 2014

Astral Leviathan

My brain has a case of the Fridays.  I let these whales swim about in the quintessence for just a little longer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ash Giant

It’s a bad day to be an adventurer when you have to fight leprosy giants.

Ten feet tall, pale, and covered in sores, ash giants are a degenerate species molded by the devastated lands around them.  Likely hill, stone, or wood giants originally, ash giants have long since been warped—the Bestiary 3 suggests by “disruptive magic, unearthed deep elements, or alien technology that fell calamitously from the sky”—beyond all recognition.  Where other giants tap into runes or natural abilities, ash giants spread disease.  Where other giants have animal and even magical mounts, ash giants befriend giant vermin.  And while ash giants are not evil per se, their sense of humor can be as deadly as the oversized weapons they bear.

In Golarion ash giants dwell in a number of places, the blasted land of Numeria being the most obvious example.  Should you be a fan of D&D settings, Eberron’s Mournland and anywhere associated with the Known World/Mystara’s Radiance could be a home to these creatures (not to mention the entire Forgotten Realms, whose middle name might as well be Calamity, or the blighted Underdark of 4.0’s Chained God, Torog).  And should you be lucky enough to own the Book of Vile Darkness, ash giants could find powerful allies in that tome’s cancer mages and vermin lords…

Adventurers seek out an old friend who has been consigned to a leper colony.  When they reach the remote tropical island, they find all is not as it should be.  The lepers are slaves, many of the “hospital attendants” are ash giants, and the ministering friars spend more time exploring the nearby cyclopean ruins than tending to the sick.

Since their spine dragon “god” died (see The Inner Sea World Guide for spine dragon stats), a tribe of ash giants has been adrift.  One band wandered off and inadvertently triggered a talking metal monolith.  The monolith generates a field that repels the ash giants’ vermin servitors, so they seek humanoids they can force to serve the monolith’s ever-more insistent commands.

There is plague in the stews.  A virulent form of leprosy has swept up from the docks through Dogtown and the Closes all the way to Basilisk Row.  A promoter has imported ash giants to fight for him in the arena, and since he is protected by disease via magic, he cares not who dies—just so long as the giants are able to wield their enormous weapons for him in the Pit.  He doesn't know a tribe of gremlins has discovered the unused keep where he is hiding the giants.  The fey and the brutes get along famously thanks to their grim senses of humor, and the gremlins are engineering a jailbreak.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 126

Hey Welcome to Night Vale fans: Episode 50 came out this week, and it was written with help from Ashley Lierman of “Summer Reading Program” fame.  I happen to know Ash is awesome (I dated her sister many moons ago, so I am contractually obligated to say that, but it’s true) so I hope you check out that episode.

Speaking of dating, another old flame of mine quit her job a few days ago.  Her departure memo promptly went viral.  It's pretty much the coolest thing ever and you can read it here if you didn't already see it on Yahoo!, among other places.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but the argus has ugly covered.  (And since beholders are WotC IP anyway, we’re going to stick with the argus for today’s post.)

First, some background.  You remember the myth of Argus Panoptes, right?  Zeus, randy philanderer?  Io, sexy nymph turned equally luscious cow?  Argus, one of the titans, had one hundred eyes, set by Hera to guard her?  Hermes lured him to sleep, killed him, and Hera put his eyes on the peacock’s tail to memorialize him?  Remember?  Of course you do!  So the argus is Pathfinder’s take on that guy, and a mythic one at that.

In Pathfinder, arguses are misshapen monsters related to titans, being somewhat less than them—they are aberrations rather than titans and outsiders, and lack the titans’ 20+ challenge ratings—but with a wellspring of mythic power and abilities all their own.  As one might expect from a creature covered in eyes, nearly all the argus’s abilities are sight-related, and some of them are truly superhuman: never surprised, ignore almost all cover and concealment, no distance penalties on Perception checks whatsoever, etc.  In other words, you will not get the drop on it, and it will strike you with appalling accuracy.

It’s unclear whether arguses are a true-breeding race or not; it’s implied that each argus is singular, transformed by a deity for some slight and then forced into service.  So it's likely that argushood is a punishment reserved for titans and similar near-divine creatures.  It might even be the fate for one of your campaign’s recurring NPCs—a fitting punishment for failing to kill the party before they reached such a high-level that the gods had to get involved…

Or…what if there is only one argus?  It’s such a rare creature already, but what if it were unique?  Might your PCs try to find more creative way to defeat it, such as with storytelling or song, if they know they are facing the only specimen of its race?  And if you kill a thing a god has made, the only one of its kind in the multiverse…surely that’s going to tick somebody off.

Oh, one final note: If you’re one of my 3.5 readers, you might want to consider converting the argus’s stats for use in the world’s oldest role-playing game.  Because when you hint that they're going to be facing a monster with lots of eyes, a titan that has an eye gouge special attack is not what they are going to be expecting…

A time dragon has only recently come into adulthood.  Still uncertain in his stewardship over the fourth dimension, he spends long hours studying the orrery in his gleaming skymetal lair.  An argus, a gift from the time dragon’s sire, guards the lair while his master is so indisposed, winding the mechanisms of thousands of elaborate timepieces with his hundreds of discerning eyes.

On an outcropping in the planes, a lone lighthouse stands overlooking the shores of a long-dead sea.  Manned by demodands, the lighthouse casts a beam of darkness over the land, describing a black circle in its sweep.  The lighthouse keeper is a lonely argus.  He actually despises his demodand servant-jailors and he will defend any visitors against them if the visitors agree to entertain him with tales.  But if they try to stop or snuff out the dark beacon, or claim any treasure from the dried-up seafloor, the argus immediately attacks.

According to legend, the argus has tangled with both the Mother of Monsters (said by some to be the mother of evil dragons and by others to be the mother of lamias) and a man-eating bull of mythic power.  When mythic minotaurs and a conclave of lamia harridans unite under the banner of Baphomet, the only answer might be to rouse the argus from his slumber…assuming the hundred-eyed beast is not a legend himself.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 13

This post brought to you by that SAFT FLÄDER elderflower syrup from Ikea, which is just so damn good on a hot summer night.  (No, I do not actually have an underwriter; I am just thirsty and I like umlauts.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Archelon & Baluchitherium

Giants from another age—and I do mean giants; these things were huge—the archelon and baluchitherium recall an older, wilder era.  But older does not mean forgotten.  As the Bestiary 3 notes, these megafauna are prized as guardians or mounts in their respective environments.

Archelons are turning up dead and drugs are pouring into Mersea.  The culprit is a bizarre aquatic smuggling ring.  Vodyanois surround packages of contraband in water orbs shaped to look like jellyfish, which are then fed to archelons on the sly.  When the giant turtles make the trip to Mersea, they are intercepted by ceratioidi thugs, who gut them and reclaim the goods.  To the ceratioidi, the profits from the contraband more than make up for the cost in slain archelons.  In truth, the fact that slaying these beasts undermines their locathah rivals is an added bonus.

Ettins aren't the only ones who value baluchitheriums.  Whole tribes of gripplis live out their lives on the backs of these herding megafauna.  Their mobile homes keep them safe from army ants, kamadans, and mobats.  The gripplis only abandon their baluchitheriums during mating season (for obvious reasons), meeting other tribes to trade, arrange marriages, and conduct religious ceremonies.

“The Old World is not a myth,” says Professor Jeffersil Frobisher.  “I believe the story that humans migrated from there is true—not as part of some mythical, metaphorical origin story but as historical fact.”  He pauses to sip his water.  “What’s more, I believe the Old World still exists…and it is a land of giants.”  He brandishes a baluchitherium skull for emphasis.  “I intend to prove it.  I intend to go there.”  These are the last words he speaks before obsidian-tipped arrow shafts loosed from unseen bows pierce his heart.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 192

Daily Planescape has a nice take on these beasts as well.

Speaking of megafauna, back when I was a college concert promoter I had to cut Star Ghost Dog’s stage time—not just once, but twice.  One time was beyond my control; the other was poor judgment.  This link to their album The Great Indoors, featuring the track “Megafauna,” is a sad attempt at a public apology to them.  Sorry, guys.