Another greatest …hit from the world’s oldest role-playing game’s Fiend Folio. (It’s conceivable that I’m missing a letter there.) Wingless humanoid crows packed with muscles and sharp bits, dire corbies got a makeover from Rob McCreary in Misfit Monsters Redeemed and have been unleashing their terrible screeches at us ever since.
Honestly, that book is your best bet for more on these creatures (though you can find the gist here). McCreary avoids easy answers for the dire corbies’ origin (they aren’t simply warped subterranean tengus), serves up a ton of variant subraces, and paints a picture of utterly mad, infanticidal (ovicidal?) monsters so bloodthirsty that they would rather leap to their dooms than allow prey to escape. There’s a dark humor for players at the game table imagining a flock of dire corbies trying—and failing—to leap across a crevasse at their characters. But when the GM starts pulling out more minis…and the dire corbies start sticking the landing…and still more dire corbies start arriving from the tunnels on the PCs’ side of the crevasse…well, suddenly dark humor turns to dark horror very quickly…
A banshee is said to haunt the Darkway between Worm Maw and the Severed Spine. Actually, the haunting cry blamed on “the banshee” is actually a dread corby’s screech of doom. The dread corby is an adept who seeks sacrifices to please his harpy mother—in his madness forgetting he devoured half of her and crucified the rest almost a month ago. Her rotted body still bears a torc that offers clues to opening the back door to a duergar keep. Any harpies who see the necklace will assume the bearer is a murderer.
Crow Keep is an entire tower relocated underground courtesy of a sinkhole. Adventurers who try to investigate it will be set upon by dire corbies that spill out from the cliff faces surrounding the keep on all sides. They are led not by a rookery chief, but by a gold-hilted intelligent sword that was once housed in the keep. The evil weapon wants to command a kingdom, but until an adventurer can wrest it from its current holder’s grasp, it is content with its sunken domain.
During the First War of Souls, the old spirits of Chaos were driven away by the new Order—those celestial beings who would become angels and devils in their time. The spirits who declined to fight on either side were dispersed into the world as fey and kami, guardians of the land, or as resentful oni and divs. And then there were the crow spirits. They ignored all calls to account whatsoever, choosing to devour and despoil the piled bodies of the spirit dead from both sides. When they even drove off the psychopomps of the newly installed Lady of Graves, refusing to let them harvest the slain, the victorious spirits of Order had had enough. They warped the crow spirits in body and mind and banished them underground, dooming them to war for every scrap of food and feast on their own young. To this day, these dire corbies bear a particular hatred for the descendants of the kin who escaped their fate, instinctively attacking gnomes, sulis, and undines, oreads, or sylphs who come from kami stock before all other opponents. In the Land of Brass Lamps they come boiling out of their cave homes to attack caravans that reek of genie magic, and their wars with the leprechauns in the Mines of Oloran are legendary—if you ask the right talespinner.
—Misfit Monsters Redeemed 16–21 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 80
Since I’m all about societies and role-playing and reinventing monsters, I sometimes am guilty of neglecting straight-up dungeon crawl adventure seeds. Dire corbies are a useful reminder to go back to basics.
Happy Thanksgiving Eve, all! May the dire corby on your table be properly stuffed and seasoned.