Thursday, December 25, 2014

Executioner’s Hood, Lurker Above & Trapper

One of the things that sets Pathfinder authors apart is their ability to synthesize (a talent I’ve mentioned here before) and rationalize.  There are a lot of writers and publishers out there who owe their existence to one edition or another of the world’s oldest role-playing game, and almost all of them try to recapture certain elements of the original dungeon crawl experience.  But while these other publishers seem to be obsessed with 1e rule tweaks and TPK potential, Pathfinder writers actually spend time making those dungeon crawls make sense. 

So where you once had three (admittedly classic) monsters—the executioners hood, lurker above, and trapper—that were all vaguely similar ambush predators, Misfit Monsters Redeemed’s Colin McComb saw them as three stages in the life cycle of one monster: the lurking ray.  That makes sense!  Not only that, it’s elegant.  Suddenly three semi-believable monsters become one totally plausible species.  Suddenly dungeon ecosystems are more rational places.  And suddenly your PCs have even more to fear.

The ancient temples on Polau are rumored to be haunted, and the natives give them a wide berth as well.  Those who come too near are sometimes found headless; more often than not, they are not found at all.  It turns out that the temples are positively infested with lurking rays, particularly lurkers above.  Able to hunt in the jungle by night and retreat to the temples during the day, these manta-like creatures grow fat and powerful at every stage of their life cycle.

A social club for magi and musketeers features an ornate rug that is actually a trapper held in magical stasis.  The boisterous members take little notice of the rug, but if the club’s vaults are ever robbed, the stasis ends and the trapper will attempt to consume whoever passes through—ideally (but not necessarily) the thief.

A natural stone bridge over an underground river hides an executioner’s hood.  When raft- or skiff-going travelers get hung up on the rocks beneath the bridge, the hood strikes.  Drow who know about the bridge’s predator sometimes hang truculent slaves there.  When the slaves’ families go to retrieve the bodies, they themselves often fall prey to the executioner’s hood.

Misfit Monsters Redeemed 46–51 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 186–187

See more on the lurking ray in Misfit Monsters Redeemed.

I spent much of today watching Island Hunters on HGTV.  I think it shows in that first adventure seed.

And yeah, I totally buy the lurking ray’s life cycle of young executioner’s hoods growing into male lurkers above and female trappers.  If Schistosoma in our world can sustain a life cycle that involves snails and humans, with puddles as a vector for infection, lurking rays seem downright mundane.

If Christmas is your thing, I hope it was merry; if not, I hope it was awesome in whatever way you wanted it to be.

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