In appearance alone, a geist is horror distilled down to its base elements: a dark cloak around a mouthful of teeth. Do you really need anything more?
Oh right—geists have the ability to take control of haunts. (Haunts, for the uninitiated, are a Pathfinder innovation to the 3.5/d20 set of systems, existing somewhere between a trap and a monster.) So that vision of screaming children bursting into fire you experienced last session? Yeah, the haunt just reset it. And it waited until you were all in the center of the room to set it off again. And it’s laughing that terrifying laugh. And bites for Con damage. Whoops!
It’s interesting to compare the gearghost and the geist. Both are reasonably dangerous in and of themselves (CR 5 and CR 9, respectively), but they also serve to make the entire dungeon more dangerous. Also, it’s nice to see two undead with clear new concepts behind them, even if those concepts are really just buffing two other game mechanics. Once you get four monster books into an RPG edition, you expect the engine of invention to get a little creaky, and it’s usually oozes and undead that suffer first. To get two distinct undead with pronounceable names and distinct identities back to back is a victory.
The Salon Macabre is an exhibition of paintings that goes up every year for the week before Soul’s Rest. The fact that every year at least one person dies viewing the exhibition has only added to its notoriety. But this year, the body count has skyrocketed. The already haunted paintings have drawn the attention of a geist, and after midnight its mocking laugh can be heard even from the street.
Laki Swiftwind was exiled for practicing taboo sorcery. When he returned to his family’s steading intent on revenge, he found he was too late. Frost giants had leveled the great hall. Laki had little time to curse his tardiness, as he was struck down by the haunts engendered by the horrific raid. Rising as a geist, Laki forces others to relive visions of the raid and his own humiliation. Unlike most geists, he still wears the reindeer antlers he wore in life, though the rest remains all cloak and teeth.
A bogeyman and a geist compete to see who can scare the most people to death. While the geist has incorporeality on his side, the bogeyman’s ability move freely and cause nightmares has him far ahead. The geist may actually spare a party of adventurers from the effects of his pet haunts if they promise to dispose of the fey “cheater.”
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 124
Pictures at an Exhibition, anyone?
No wait, I meant: Pictures at an Exhibition, anyone? \m/
(If you do not click that link you are not my friend. Or at the very least this one.)
I was pretty skeptical about the Familiar Folio—I mean, didn’t the exceptional Animal Archive come out, like, yesterday? (Okay, so it’s been nearly two years. Still.)
But it turns out FF is pretty awesome. Inside front cover? Every familiar, the bonuses they provide, and where to find them. Inside back cover, every improved familiar, alignment, and ditto. (What? You forget the impundulu or the sin seeker? I know I had, but FF hadn’t.) Flavorful archetypes that let almost every character have a familiar (and a story explaining why). Options like school (of magic, that is) familiars and bloodline familiars, plus feats to expand on all of the above. And an amazing commitment to showcasing animals from all seven continents. I mean, recent Pathfinder books like Undead Unleashed have already been good about showcasing just as much Garund as Avistan. But if you’re looking for non-Western European fantasy fodder, the list of Approximate Familiars is a dream come true. (Seriously, I had both Ranger Rick and Zoobooks as a kid, and I still didn’t recognize half these animals.) If you’re trying to decide between a toucan, a wallaby, or a raktavarna familiar, this is the book for you.
My only complaint is that I would have loved a page or two on different options for role-playing how one finds and bonds with a familiar. I’m old enough to remember when the process involved expending a precious spell slot to cast find familiar and hoping the dice didn’t give you a toad. I don’t want to return to those amphibious days, but I think the current method of going, “My character’s Reflex save is lousy so she’s going to hit the pet store for a weasel,” is a tad prosaic, to say the least. I’d have been happy to give up a page or two of feats, equipment, or the ioun wyrd to explore this subject more in depth. But that’s a quibble. Don't let it get in the way of you acquiring the magical toucan of your dreams.