Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Flesh Colossus

It’s about time we got colossi in fantasy role-playing!  Fighting golems is all well and good, but sometimes you want to fight Trypticon. 

(…Yes, I’m sure God of War or some mecha anime would be a better reference to drop here, but I’m old, people.  Pac-Man didn’t have a colossus. (…Though the neighbor from Plants vs. Zombies did…))

The Bestiary 4 gives a rundown of colossi in general; the big takeaways are that these truly massive (and mythic) creations push the envelope in terms of what a construct is.  They are animated by powerful elemental spirits and are able to think for themselves in a manner more reminiscent of androids or especially advanced robots than mere golems.  They're also rudimentary Transformers to boot, each with an alternate form.  And be sure to check out the fine print on the colossus subtype at the back of the book: Not only are they as impervious to magic as golems, but they also project antimagic fields themselves; also note the Pinning Stomp (Ex) and various mythic abilities.  Speaking of which, don’t forget that the creator of the colossus needs as many mythic ranks (or more) as the final colossus.  Which means the creator of a flesh colossus must be one hell of an archmage.

About that flesh colossus: Picture a flesh golem made of 500 bodies, not body parts, and with Frankenstein’s monster’s budding self-awareness.  Also like a flesh golem, the flesh colossus has an affinity for electricity, which means that parties expecting it to serve a necromancer might get a nasty shock (ha!) when it turns out they face an evoker archmage or a mythic blue dragon instead. 

Oh, and the flesh colossus’s party piece is that it can split into (and reform from) four separate flesh golems, making it the fantasy equivalent—another Transformers reference!—of merging to form Devastator.

As if the black pudding-laced seas of Dark Reach weren’t deadly enough, the mythic lich Xertinos is no longer content to hoard his undead subjects on his island of death.  Now he sends them out in the great Bone Barge, an undead-crewed ship of truly awesome proportions.  The Bone Barge’s most devastating tactic is to launch flesh golems onto enemy ships.  The “golems” then fight their way down to the hold (their progress aided by their antimagic auras), and merge into a flesh colossus that smashes its way out of the ship as it forms.

The city of Endlehome is simply…empty.  There is not a living soul to be found, aside from the derhii that roost in the many silent towers (but who will not touch down on land).  Further exploration reveals traps and glyphs set by servants of Hastur; shoggoths, mythic gibbering mouthers, and worse; and clockwork pleasure/murder houses.  Digging into the rubble that used to be the basilica reveals a mass grave.  These corpses are the only remnants of Endlehome’s populace and might serve as a clue as to what occurred here…until they surge to life as a horrid flesh colossus.

Scarred in body and primitive mind by eldritch dragonfire, a flesh colossus refuses to fight for its mythic blue dragon creator.  Reasoning that only more corpses can restore its former might, the flesh colossus attempts to add new bodies (living and dead) to its frame while hiding from its former master.  Adventurers hoping to stop the corpse-snatching colossus will also have to contend with the blue dragon and his chief rival, the mythic red that nearly burnt the flesh colossus to a crisp once already, and who plans to finish the job without any outside interference.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 35

Yeah, that’s a The Pirates of Dark Water homage up there.

So after yesterday’s post dr-archeville reminded us that Ultimate Campaign has rules for child characters.  D’oh!  (And sigh.  I should really get around to reading the books I own, shouldn’t I?  GAZ3 is still hella awesome, though, and specifically covers adventuring at a school of magic.)

A few folks have said they’ve used an adventure idea or two from this blog, but I don’t believe I’ve ever gotten a full adventure run-down before…UNTIL NOW.  Check out this epic email from reader Dustin:

Used one of your adventure hooks…and it was AWESOME! The hook in question was from the atomie entry:

“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.”

The setup:

I know a disparate group of players who don't have the time for a regular group, so this got set up as a one-shot. Set in what was essentially the Shire. First level characters. Who were not at all heroic figures (an anti-social woodsman [ranger], a cowardly singing cook [bard], a 14 year old farmgirl [druid with a goat], a lonely and sticky-fingered spinstress [rogue], and a pig-wrasslin' farmer [barbarian]). The stuffed owlbear head (also the town good luck charm and ward against evil) in the town hall went missing (stolen by the fey of course), a widower farmer went missing, and the OWLBEAR was sighted again in the woods. Speeches were made, straws were drawn, and with quite a bit of alcohol to bolster their courage the adventurers were off into the woods. Of course, as an additional twist the farmer was killed not by the owlbear or the fey, but by the yellow musk creeper that had taken over the gold-filled tree (unbeknownst to the fey of course).

The results:

We all had a blast! This was the most fun game I've ever run, and two of the players said it was the most fun they've ever had with an RPG. One of them who was new to Pathfinder is now joining the regular group that I'm a player in. Getting a group of reluctant hobbits out into the woods chasing what was obviously an above-their-level threat had both the players and their characters spooked, with the cook becoming convinced that it was all a prank waged by “those damn Took kids down the river.” As the party found little clues such as rolling a nat 20 on the check to follow the false tracks left by the fey and seeing that they didn't seem spaced like a natural creature's gait or hearing “a shriek in the distance unlike any creature you've ever heard” (courtesy of ghost sound) he became more convinced it was a prank and the rest of the party became more convinced they were going to die. 

Eventually they unmasked the atomies and grig that were responsible, bested them in a duel of honor for the right to be led to the gold, almost drowned in the swamp on the way there, and then had a memorable combat against the yellow-musk zombified farmer and his dog (highlight was the cook sobbing uncontrollably while bludgeoning the farmer about the head with his rolling pin). Finally, they concocted an elaborate tale about finding and driving off a new owlbear that had stolen the old stuffed head and driving it off into the woods. Thanks to the little girl's Innocent trait, bags full of gold, and some good rolls the whole town believed them and they became heroes (except her parents against who the bonus didn't apply but were happy enough to have her back safe as to not scold her too hard for lying).

All in all it was a great session which wouldn't have happened were it not for your adventure hook, so THANK YOU! And now I'm reading all your archives collecting tidbits and inspiration for a feudal Japanese-themed campaign...


All in all, I don't think I can take credit for this—it sounds like Dustin has a pretty fantastic group (and is a dynamo behind the GM screen himself).  But thanks for the email!  And if you’ve got a similar story…send it!

The double-extra-secret reason I love Dustin’s email is because the inspiration for this entire blog can probably be traced back to one of my favorite articles from probably my favorite issue of Dragon Magazine of all time: Vince Garcia’s “The Folk of the Faerie Kingdom” from issue #155, featuring adventure seeds for every fey creature in the 1e AD&D Monster Manuals and the Fiend Folio.  The very first monster featured (and my first encounter with one of these fey)?  The atomie.

Dun, dun, DUNNN

Meanwhile: Hey Dustin!  For your feudal Japanese campaign, I assume you already have Pathfinder’s Ultimate Combat for the samurai and ninja classes and the Bestiary 3 for monsters (or you’ve at least checked out the PRD for all of the above). 

Here are more things you might dig (assuming you don't have them already, which you very well might): 1) Pathfinder’s Ultimate Equipment (for pictures/stats of Eastern weapons), 2) a copy of the 3.0 Oriental Adventures book for still more flavor and options—side note: Dragon #318 will help you update the OA to get closer to the Pathfinder standard, and Dragon #289 has more OA-related goodies, especially if you like ninjas—3) Pathfinder’s Dragon Empires (especially if your PCs will ever explore outside your feudal Japan, and for new deity and race options—the Advanced Race Guide has even more), 4) my “Aoandon” entry (because the aoandon is awesome), 5) a trip to your local library for a copy of Woman Warrior (it’s a Chinese-American coming of age novel/memoir, but there’s a scene with a hungry ghost in a medical school that’s phenomenal, and 6) (this is totally price of entry but I don’t care) a copy of Princess Mononoke, because duh. 

Any other ideas, readers?

1 comment:

  1. Another comparison you can make with the flesh colossus (though the Transformer references are cool) is with Legion from Castlevania (http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/Legion#Enemy_Data).