Thursday, February 5, 2015


Our first fleshwarp, the ghonhatine! 

(Not counting driders.  We didn’t know fleshwarps were going to be a thing back then.)

(Actually that’s not true, because fleshwarps actually predate the Pathfinder game; in fact the ghonatine and irnakurse got statted up the Second Darkness Adventure Path.)

(And crap, we covered the Inner Sea Bestiary’s oronci all the way back in March of 2013.  Look, whatever.  Chronology is hard.  The point is: Hey look, fleshwarps are in the Bestiary 4!)

Anyway, ghonhatines are fleshwarped troglodytes…but maybe “warped” isn’t so much the right word as “de-degenerated.”  Instead of the frail, disgusting creatures that are the bane of spelunking adventures, these are monstrous CR 10 hulks that recall an earlier, more vital age in troglodyte evolution.*

They're still disgusting though, with an even nastier stench than their troglodyte forebears.  They are also perhaps the only creatures in the Bestiaries whose specialty is devouring PCs for extra hit points and then vomiting up the remains as a splash weapon that deals acid damage and filth fever.  Now that’s adding insult—and disease—to injury.

A baron stands accused of trafficking with drow—an offense even worse than treason in civilized realms.  He’s covered his tracks exceedingly well, though, to the point that even divinations do not reveal his perfidy.  Only the most observant adventurers will notice—or be informed by an escaped kobold slave, if they have treated the pitiful creature well—that the beasts that guard his estate at night are not the lizardfolk mercenaries he employs by day, but ghonhatines—a gift from a drow matron herself.

A drow estate sits on the tiered shelves of an ancient petrified bracket fungus.  The first level is the slave and servant quarters, and the third level is reserved for the matron and her family.  The darkness-shrouded second level, home to the house artisans, poisoners, spellcasters, and assassins, actually hangs from the foundation of the third level courtesy of reverse gravity.  Anyone attempting to enter the apparent (and very much illusory) second level discovers only a park filled with dangerous plants and ravenous feral ghonhatines.

Legally, the government of Andulaine recalled its ambassador after a border dispute with Montauk.  But the ambassador never arrived in Andulaine to report to the Chief Minister, and someone is clearly still living in the shuttered and locked embassy in Montauk’s capital.  In truth, the ambassador became enamored with fleshwarping, and by the time of the recall was too altered to return home.  Adventurers who investigate the embassy will find her wearing the shape of a lamia matriarch, defended by leashed ghonhatines and tended by crab claw-handed maids who are only too glad not to be one of the piteous grothluts that moan in the cellar.

Pathfinder #16 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 102

*Though actually according to canon ghonhatines are actually riddled with disease and dying on the inside; each has a life expectancy of only two years.  See the excellent Pathfinder #16: Endless Night for more details and an overview of drow fleshwarping in general.

Anytime you see dark elves and reverse gravity in the same sentence, it’s an homage to the shadow elves’ City of the Stars, which sits on the ceiling of its cavern.

The only monsters we’ve been waiting for longer than fleshwarps?  The abomination, humour, mineral, and thaumaturgic dragons teased by Mike McArtor in Pathfinder #4: Fortress of the Stone Giants.  Man, I want me some abomination dragons… 

I’m not just saying this to nudge the overworked Paizo folk who browse this blog.  (Though that’s plenty fun, too.)  I’m saying this because—to me at least—there’s a tension that exists in Golarion between the singular vision and wild and wooly weirdness of Varisia as depicted in Rise of the Runelords/Curse of the Crimson Throne and the more general and multifaceted “Best of All Possible Worlds” setting that Golarion evolved to become.

Upon close examination this generalization falls apart—early Varisia was the work of many hands all contributing both home campaign elements and fresh ideas, and the rest of Golarion has plenty of weirdness to go around.  (Just look at the alien influence on Osirion and Katapesh, the River Kingdoms in all their variety, or the decidedly un-twee First World.) 

But there’s still something fresh and new and alien and strange about the Golarion of the first two or three Adventure Paths, a world of lamias and sin magic and assassin gods, where you’re as likely to run across a rot, phlegmatic, pyrite, or illusion dragon as you are to encounter a green or gold.  I love the Golarion we have, but that other Golarion is out there, too, hiding in the shadow of the Irespan or off the lee shore of the Mordant Spire.  When the stars are right and the mists part (and publishing schedules allow), I want to see more of it.

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