Fey whose wings are actually symbiotic plants, gathlains were introduced in the Advanced Race Guide. They were one of five new PC races that a) just by themselves were practically worth the price of admission, and b) were wild and weird enough that they expanded our sense of what Pathfinder could be. At the very least they didn't feel very Golarion. (It’s no accident that we’ve since learned kasathas come from anther planet.) In face, they were among the freshest new races to show up in d20 gaming since Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed…and maybe even Dark Sun (the Holy Grail of racial rethinks).
(I wrote very similar things back here and here, but they're still true. And I still wish we’d gotten about five more of these races, just to see what ideas the authors would have come up with. This is why we need an economically viable Dragon Magazine or Kobold Quarterly.)
So it’s weird to see gathlains in among the other “ordinary” monsters of the Bestiary 4. They still feel very different—foreign in a way that a pixie or a sprite just isn’t. But as unique forest/jungle encounters they’re hard to beat. Their rapport with plants is undeniable—they should almost definitely have the same plant companions as elves (see the ARG) or leshy servitors. Their mistletoe wings recall old-school 1e AD&D druids. If even gnomes find them flighty, they have the potential for some great role-playing encounters. And their origin story offers the suggestion for a campaign-spanning adventure to save their race’s birth tree—perfect for fans of The Silmarillion, the classic D&D module The Tree of Life, or heck, even Fern Gully.
A gathlain’s mate has been captured, and she leaves the safety of the forest to look for him. Overawed by the cities of men, she hides in the only greenery she can find: a grocer’s cart. When a shop patron mistakes her for a head of lettuce and grabs her wings, havoc ensues—with local adventurers caught right in the middle of her color spray.
A gathlain’s sorcerer heritage manifests when she grows a pair of claws. Her nervous kin shun her, fearing she may have the blood of a dragon…or worse yet, a demon. Adventurers come upon her as she is testing out her new gifts, and how they react to her may determine whether she joins them as a sidekick, returns to her folk to demand her rightful place among them, or gives in to the violence coursing through her veins.
Young villagers are tasked with delivering the bulb of a rare magical plant to a wise woman two valleys away. In doing so, they will take their first steps as adventurers, facing down wolves, negotiating with bullying ferrymen, and outwitting bloodthirsty sagaris. They also have to protect the bulb from a flight of strange fey creatures—gathlains—intent on stealing it. If they successfully deliver the bulb, it begins to glow and hatch just as they arrive, birthing a tiny fey creature. The infant gathlain is the last seed of the First Tree…and the first clue toward finding this missing mythic life-form.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 122
I totally should have mentioned meladaemons and the tintinnabulation of bells yesterday. Good notes, demiurge1138, ohgodhesloose, and Anon!
Also wow, what are the odds that the Paizo blog and I would talk about galvos on the very same day?
And this will never happen. But as a Mystara/Hollow World fan—man, I need to write more about Hollow World some time—I’m obligated to post it anyway.