Friday, January 23, 2015


Spirits of greed, jealousy, and gluttony, gakis are the “hungry ghosts,” constantly searching for the elusive combination of foods that will grant them new bodies.

Obsessive undead are always interesting (they are to me, at least) and that goes double for gakis.  Their strange compulsions mean they can pop up almost anywhere, including places monsters tend to avoid—a flower show, the church baptismal font, or guzzling the alcohol in a chirurgeon’s operating theater—so long as they avoid sunlight and moonlight.  But since they also crave the flesh of the sinful—and sometimes even evil creatures up to and including demons—they might make odd rivals or even (very) temporary comrades for PCs.

One last note: In our world tales of gakis were likely imported to Japan along with Buddhism from India, where they were known as pretas.  According to Wikipedia they were seen as creatures of air and space/void.  To me that’s super interesting, and could potentially tie them thematically to the Elemental Planes, powerful oni like the void yai (see also void magic from the Dragon Empires Primer and similar magic and creatures from 3.0’s Oriental Adventures), or even Lovecraftian and other sci-fi/horror realms.  In other words, your campaign doesn’t need to have Shinto gates and fox-tailed shrine maidens to have a gaki.  Hungry things are always out there…

Going to evening confession is a regular part of the week in Umberton.  But in recent weeks several parishioners have gone missing.  Suspicion begins to fall on everyone.  Werewolves are blamed due to the nighttime attacks; a homeless kitsune boy currently rots in prison, lucky not to have been lynched.  Others look for more mundane reasons; after all, weren’t all the victims owed large sums of money?  Even the priest is a suspect; who better to know his victims’ comings and goings?  The real culprit is a gaki with a compulsion to feast on the sin of greed.  He eavesdrops on the confessions from the catacombs below and then follows the most avaricious souls home.

A rakshasa haruspex is fascinated with portents in the sky and stars, and with the elemental powers of the void.  Having once trapped a gaki to learn more about its nature, he now keeps the undead chained in his dining room as a kind of court jester, feeding it scraps from his plate (and his auguries).  The gaki remains invisible when not compelled by hunger to perform for his dinner, so adventurers may not immediately realize that one of the room’s chains does not lead to the chandelier…

A legendary halfling adventurer is throwing himself a great birthday party—actually a retirement party—as well as a ceremony of investiture for his nephew, to whom he intends to give a powerful magical ring.  The elderly halfling has spared no expense, ordering dwarven fireworks, a wizard entertainer, and of course food and beverages for all.  Having spied the wagonloads of food passing through their town the day before, a gang of gakis hitched a ride to the shire on the fireworks cart.  When dusk arrives, the gakis plan to burst out of hiding and devour the food, the halflings, and anyone who gets in their way.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 118

I’ve mentioned the Hungry Ghost set piece from Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior several times here before.  Only now when I double-check Wikipedia, it turns out it was a Sitting Ghost.  Sigh.  I’m sure Hungry Ghosts are mentioned, though, and it’s still a great scene.  And there’s always No-Face from Spirited Away, who may have a very different form but certainly has the compulsive appetite of a gaki.

Mini-reviews!  It turns out one of my weirder third-party orders ended up causing a logjam in my sidecart.  An easy call to Customer Service unstuck everything, but it meant that I got an entire fall’s worth of Pathfinder Campaign Setting books in one order.

I think as a general resource Ships of the Inner Sea might be the most useful long-term.  Deck plans tend to only show up sprinkled in far-flung adventure modules, so having seven ships of varying styles (slave galley, longboat, galleon, junk, elven corsair, etc.) in one place is handy.  (Take note, my seafaring fans—such as jenna-darknight, I believe?) 

If the waves aren't your thing, Undead Unleashed lays out notable undead from Golarion with enough lair/encounter details to serve as short adventures.  If you like the really detailed, comprehensive format of Pathfinder Adventure Path installments you might find these skimpy, but they’re far easier to insert into a home campaign.  (Besides, many of these undead are meant for pretty high-level play, and at those levels a single fight or two can run most of an evening.  So I’m betting they won’t feel skimpy at the table.)  Longtime readers will recognize some familiar names in the credits (I especially dug Todd Stewart’s mythic mohrg and Adam Daigle’s reluctant lich diviner).   In terms of new faces (at least to me), Jerome Virnich stood out as a name who delivered something special every single time he came up bat. 

Finally, Lost Treasures isn’t my usual type of book—unless I’m actively playing, magic item descriptions make my eyes glaze over in seconds—but there was plenty of lore to keep me entertained as I read during my lunch breaks.

Resolving the Campaign Setting logjam also freed up my original Monster Codex order.  It’s gorgeous, full stop.  Yes, in theory you could just read/refer to the entire thing online—it's up now for free on the PRD.  But trust me, you don't really want to.  The rich art is simply too evocative to do without at the table.  The chapters are simply too much fun to browse.  This is simply a book you want on your shelf.  (How do you know I’m serious?  Even after I was lucky enough to get another copy, I didn't cancel my original order.  I figured I’d want a spare.)


  1. The third adventure seed - hahaha! It's especially cool since I was just now playing Shadow of Mordor, which is also a very effective expansion on / modernization of Tolkien lore.

  2. There are other ways to work the gaki that don't involve undeath, for that matter. The Chinese symbols 餓鬼 mean something closer to "starving demon", and I've seen them described as being the reincarnated spirits of people who lived by their appetites. In that version, they actually exist in their own little realm separate from the real world, and function much more like lesser rakshasha (the game version). They also have a ridiculously wide variety of specific appetites, from the scent of a certain sort of incense all the way over to the flesh, blood, or souls of humans. So they could easily be tweaked up and down the CR ladder a bit.