At a reader’s request, we covered the cerberi way back in February of 2013 as a postscript to the “Noqual Golem” entry. Here it is again (edited for clarity) in its proper place in the alphabet:
What sets the cerberi apart isn’t the three heads; it’s what those heads represents—a pedigree.
Every cerberi comes from the mythical Cerberus (who we can assume is a unique Advanced and templated-up paragon of the race). So even the wild examples are special. Roving packs of them might be a nuisance to devilkin, who would have to guard prize souls and slaves against them…but like the gray wolves in today’s American West, they’re simply too special to just dispose of like you would a coyote (or hell hound).
The vast majority of cerberi, though, are going to have owners. So most aren’t going to show up randomly—they’re going to be guard dogs or pets. If you kill one, someone is going to come looking.
Also—again, because of pedigree—they might be incredibly useful gifts. A devil might give one to powerful mortals, axiomites, daemons, fey…even archons or angels as a calculated provocation. The recipient likely can’t refuse the offer or risk offending the giver…and the cerberi’s power to scent souls is just too useful to dismiss. But now they’ve got a repulsively skinless, too-smart, ticking time bomb in their courts. So into the kennel/dungeon/labyrinth/spare bedroom the infernal dog goes, ready to meet the PCs at some point in the near future.
Wild cerberi rove in packs along the outskirts of the Hell border town of Surety, eating garbage and preying on the occasional soul or hapless human. The town’s mortal merchants complain, but the tieflings who run Surety have little incentive to eradicate the dogs. The town used to be a staging ground for diabolitionists, but the cerberi packs have cut the number of escaped slaves and souls in half.
The cleric Brentus is famous for his zealous service to St. Kumin, the Bane of Undead. He is even more famous for the three-headed cerberi he holds on a barbed choke chain. The hound’s ability to track even the spectral dead is undeniably useful, but Brentus’s superiors have all placed wagers either on the day the cerberi turns on him, or on the inevitable day the lawful neutral cleric goes too far…
Known wicked personages who can boast of owning a cerberi guard dog include the antler-headed sidhe lord Cerwidon (use stats for an elf with fey creature template), the Conjuror-Baron Vitus, and the ja noi (hobgoblin oni) Yamato Nine-Tongue.
—Pathfinder #28 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 51
Note that in the original entry I forgot to mention the cerberi first appeared in Pathfinder #28: The Infernal Syndrome, including the more hellish, 400-pound Malbolgian cerberi variant.
Now let’s ditch the italics and get to some new and backlogged reader comments:
In other news, demiurge1138 wonders about aboleths vs. ceratioidi. I also want to call out this yokai project he’s working on over on the Paizo boards. Meanwhile, dr-archville goes octo-nuts. He also reminded me that the caulborn’s brain-sacks actually got statted up themselves in the Shattered Star Adventure Path. And a bunch of you chimed in about the bogeyman.
Clearly some celestial lord of irony has decided to torment me, because I still can't believe that, given my noted anti-golem bias, you all have decided to make my “Cannon Golem” entry one of my most popular ever. Well played, readers.
At least you all liked the “Blood Hag,” too. Speaking of which, after that entry I got one of my most favorite comments I’ve ever received, from Goddess Thain:
I’m from the Caribbean.
It is so heartwarming (in a weird sort of way, but that’s honestly the best kind) to see our local legends expressed in other places. ^(;,;)^
Damn right. One of the best things about fantasy role-playing is that, given enough time, it lets the whole world in—every monster, every bit of folklore, every myth, every piece of pulp fiction, every wondrous idea is welcome. And every new monster that enters opens the door for players and GMs to explore the culture or story or author it came from. It’s not appropriation—it's appreciation and an invitation. You bring in the blood hags, the golems, the tupilaqs, the divs, and the oni—and the wise women, defiant rabbis, stern shamans, proud janissaries, and Woman Warriors come in with them, each with a map to follow that leads back to a home worth exploring: ours.