Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Why has it taken us this long to get the peluda in fantasy gaming?  Like the gorynych, this is a wonderful one-off dragon species with a proud medieval pedigree, a throwback to when dragons were terrible fire-breathing beasts and not chatty sorcerers.  Part dragon and part porcupine, it’s a nasty customer (for all that it is only size Large).  Best of all, it has built into its stats one of the crucial elements of a mythological monster: a weakness.  Now in a campaign where PCs are slinging fireballs as if they were at pitching practice, maybe that’s not a big deal.  But to me, there’s something nice about rewarding the scholarly/bardic PC who takes the time to actually listen to the locals’ tales about the creature, plus the excitement of the cost/benefit analysis that taking advantage of that weakness requires (i.e. is the lost damage per round worth the sunder attempt?).

Peludas are no brain surgeons or mighty masterminds; even the expanded ecology from Pathfinder Adventure Path #33: The Varnhold Vanishing indicates that they are brutes who at most might have a few humanoid tribes serving them.  But that’s fine, because plotting is not what they’re for.  Peludas are for throwing at PCs before they’re ready, for terrifying them with a quill barrage, and for being as deadly in defense as they are on offense.  Peludas is how you scare PCs into fighting smart (or at least extra bloody and determined), making their eventual victory all the more sweet.

Marsh giants have been flattering a peluda, calling it the Great Master and the Lord of Narrow Swamp.  In truth, they are angling for the peluda’s eggs, which they use to mutate their own kin and their skum servants into spiny monstrosities.  The peluda has only surrendered one so far, but as the power goes to her head she may offer more, not realizing to what ends her clutch is being put to.

A saint is famous for having vanquished a local peluda.  There’s only one problem: the tale isn’t true—the peluda lived.  When it resurfaces, the church hires adventurers to discreetly dispatch the beast.  Then it sends bounty hunters after them, determined that the saint’s famous first miracle remain so in the eyes of the faithful.

Adventurers are sent to save a prince’s life—or end it, depending on their employer.  Either way, they are too late—they find the prince’s headless body still in its armor, impaled by a barrage of terrible quills.  (His less-well-armored horse has been devoured.)  Just as they come across the body, so too does another search party, who for their own reasons immediately accuses the adventurers of being in league with the beast.  Now it’s a race through the swamp to be the first to tell their version of the tale, while dodging both the still-hungry peluda and a black dragon keen on taking over the spiny dragon’s territory.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #33 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 212

Not gonna lie: I love reblogs.  Dungeon Inspiration in  particular has been really great about boosting my bandwidth lately—thanks!  And getting reblogged by Paizo’s official Tumblr…?  That was pretty awesome.  Cheers, Paizo social media mavens—you made my day.

Monday, June 29, 2015


There is simply no way I can do justice to Pazuzu in one sitting.  This is a being who’s been in fantasy gaming since the original Monster Manual II, who even managed to sneak into demon-phobic 2e, who got the full “Demonomicon of Iggwilv” workup in Dragon Magazine, and who hails from our own world courtesy of Assyrian and Babylonian mythology (not to mention The Exorcist).  He’s been part of Pathfinder since pretty much Day One as Lamashtu’s foil, and he’s the most powerful demon lord (at CR 30, topping even mighty Dagon) in Bestiary 4.  He doesn't deserve a blog post; he deserves a sourcebook.

That said, here are three quick highlights to remember when brainstorming ideas for encounters with Pazuzu.

1) He’s a survivor.  He survived the fall of the qlippoth race (or at least I think he did—I know he survived the fall of the obyriths in 3.5) to become a demon lord—no mean feat.  He’s survived his worst enemy becoming a friggin’ goddess.  And rather than sweat claiming one layer of the Abyss, he simply claims the skies.  In all the layers.  That’s insane…and yet he’s managed to hold on to them for eons and epochs.  So if your PCs think they can just say his name three times, wait for him to appear, and ambush him, think again.  Speaking of which…

2) He wants to be summoned.  He makes it easy.  Whereas other demons loathe being made to dance to a mortal’s tune, he appears like the Abyss’s concierge, prompt as you please.  Of course, just saying his name three times means that he learns yours and opens you up to the threat of possession.  And his wishes turn you chaotic evil with a crushing despair chaser.  This is a demon lord who collects antipaladins as a hobby. What do you think your chances are of invoking him scot-free?

3) He will seem like the reasonable demon lord.  Even more than the various succubus queens, Pazuzu will seem like the face of evil that you can at least work with short-term and remain unscathed.  After all, he hates Lamashtu, right?  Just avoid saying his name and making any dumb wishes and you can totally form some kind of alliance.  The enemy of your enemy and all that.

Except he probably invented that saying.

Pazuzu is one of the worst demon lords there is.  You just haven’t seen the full reach of his plans yet.  If one of his servants does you a favor at first level, you won't see the other shoe drop until you hit level 20 and you snag some mythic ranks.  But you will see it in the end.  Guaranteed.  And you will wish you hadn’t…except wishes are probably what got you into trouble in the first place.

I haven’t even mentioned Pazuzu’s mythic spell-like abilities, his aura of locusts and swarm mastery, or the poisonous snake he has between his—

You know what?  Let’s get to the adventure seeds:

Trapped in the Abyss and cursed to be rejected by any Abyssal gate or portal, adventurers must get creative to find a way out.  One option: Destroy one of the regenerating towers in Pazuzu’s realm, ride it skyward as it reforms, and slingshot themselves into the non-space between the Abyss and the prison moons of the Hag-Stitched.  Of course, Pazuzu might take such a demolition personally…

Pazuzu may have been the son of a god whose corpse floats deep in the Astral Plane.  Demons are not known for their filial affection, of course; in fact it is suspected that Pazuzu is the one who slew the entity known as Hanbi.  But when a mysterious cabal of greater dorvaes put aside their differences long enough to begin mining the corpse (with the assistance of servants of the Old Ones), one of their shafts pierces the god-corpse’s lung…and Pazuzu’s name whispers across the multiverse.  Now three powers want the corpse—particularly its heart, which Pazuzu wants to eat—and none can be allowed to claim it.

One of the souls Pazuzu has collected is the father of the tengu race.  As the progenitor of an entire species, this soul has been protected from on high for eons and eons…but Pazuzu is nothing if not patient.  Now, after millennia of vile torments, the soul of the tengu allfather coughs out Pazuzu’s name once…twice…and a third time…asking for surcease from his suffering.  As the demon lord’s profane wishcraft takes hold, every tengu in existence begins to slide to chaos and evil.  A party of adventurers must reverse the cursed wish and save the allfather’s soul, even as one of their own fights off the cold hand clutching the heart in his feathered breast.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 50–51

Obviously, the definitive non-Pathfinder take on Pazuzu is from Dragon #329, courtesy of James Jacobs.  And since Mr. Jacobs is also one of the architects of Golarion, you can pretty much take that article as canon where it doesn't conflict with published Pathfinder material.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I don’t believe we have a Cheshire Cat in Pathfinder yet, but the pard isn’t a bad start.  Like many other magical beasts, its party trick is phasing…but unlike other magical beasts, it can scorch you as it runs through you.   (Think the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde, a.k.a. Shadowcat…if she were on fire.)

Pards are too smart to serve as ranger companions without the help of some feats or a kind DM, but well-role-played PCs could certainly ally with them if they can work with the cats’ empathic communication style. 

Said empathy and phasing, by the way, opens up whole other questions…  Are pards simply the magical beasts one would expect in a magical world?  Do they come from the lands of the fey (as their diet suggests) or the Ethereal Plane (like phase spiders)?  Or is the “alien” adjective in Bestiary 4 used literally?  Could these be cats from another planet?  Or felines from whatever reality aeons hail from, where symbols and metaphor trump words every time...?

Quicklings in a drought-stricken forest approach a party of adventurers asking for aid against a den of pards.  This leaves the adventurers in a quandary: Can they refuse fey asking for help, even evil ones?  Even if they feel they can, the pards are also decimating grig populations in the area.  Worse yet, the cats’ scorching phase attacks, normally only a danger to their prey, risk setting the entire woods aflame.

An android wishes to learn emotions.  An encounter with a pard left her enamored with the creatures, and she followed a pard den through five seasons learning to communicate with them, albeit roughly.  The android now has a pard companion who is fiercely protective of her—it regards her emotionless default state as it might an infirmity in its mate or child—and she in turn will swear everlasting vengeance on anyone who harms her pard…which, for an android, can be a long time indeed.

In the City of Golden Towers, discontent is roiling the mamluk class.  Long the sultan’s elite troops and bodyguards, they are finding more and more of their traditional functions being handed to the Red Sashes.  This order of monks and shadowdancing janissaries from the mountains is resented for offenses large and small, from usurping the mamluks’ power to dietary differences and declining to wear the traditional purple turban.  Adventurers are asked (or coerced) by mamluk representatives to dig up dirt on the Red Sashes.  If they are caught they will have to face not only the warrior monks, but also the trained pards that are the order’s mascots and hunting companions.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 211

Edit: Thanks for your patience with this post.  Original entry: Can't talk. Wilco-ing. Psychedelic cats can wait. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Dark folk are probably the biggest question mark of the subterranean humanoid races—a people who have gotten almost no attention or explanation since their introduction in the original Fiend Folio.  (Thought at least the Shackled City Adventure Path gave them some love, as I recall.)  But Bestiary 4 gave us a fascinating peek at their society and cosmology, courtesy of the priestly dark callers and the otherworldly beings they both summon and venerate: the owbs.  Apparently the owb race’s scheming involves both dark folk and doppelgangers—an intriguing connection to say the least.  Even more fascinatingly, they have the ability to alter an infant dark folk’s destiny, transforming its type and thus its place in the dark folk caste system.  Clearly, these are outsiders with far-reaching plans and the ability to literally shape the course of dark folk society of generations.

After a string of disappointments, an owb begins taking out its rage on its hapless tributaries, warping even the most talented dark folk infants into dark creepers.  Finally, a cabal of dark stalkers decide they have had enough—the owb must die.  Able to contemplate deicide but not enact it, they arrange matters so that adventurers will do the job for them.

A young page realizes he is the only one at the castle who sees the newborn princess’s “godmother” for what she is: a malevolent owb who is sucking light and joy out of the infant girl.  Horrified and unable to convince the sleepwalkers around him of what he sees, he tracks down his heroes, a party of adventurers who recently had an audience in the castle.

Adventurers escape a winter fey’s lair (see Pathfinder Adventure Path #68: The Shackled Hut) and stumble from the Feyhome into the Deep Ways, the trails that lead through the Plane of Shadow.  There in the wintry forest path they are confronted by an owb wielding burning cold, attended by a henchwoman who looks exactly like one of the adventurers if all her color were washed away.  The owb and his servant (possibly a doppelganger disguised to unsettle the party, possibly something far more mysterious) attempt to kill the adventurers, particular if they approach too near a certain buried statue of a griffon.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 210

PS: The owb’s Curse of Darkness (Su) ability is really fun and evocative.  I’d totally advocate giving players who did a good job role-playing their light blindness and XP bump.

PPS: Headed back to the Berkshires (yes, third time, in like, six or seven weeks, for the Solid Sound Festival.  So the “Pard” entry may be late (I’ll spend most of tomorrow in the car), but if you’re there you should find me!  Looking out for the nerdy guy with the black or purple t-shirt is a good place to start.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Clearly someone (okay, it's wesschnieder) knows their obscure Catholicism.  Ten bucks says there’s also a pun in there (the Latin “ostium” for door not being far from the Greek “osteo” for bone).

So ostiariuses are the kyton race’s gatekeepers. But more accurately, they are gate tenders—doormen to the multiverse’s creepiest BDSM club (risk and kink, yes; aware and consensual, definitely not), carnival whisperers rather than barkers, touts whose job it is to set the hook, dangle it, and see who (ceno)bites.

Ostiariuses also fulfill a utilitarian role in the metagame, as they are low-level monsters that usefully explain how kytons and other servants of Shadow are able to so easily move between the Material and Shadow Planes.  But this has interesting implications at the story level as well.  Ostiariuses who travel about might be the means sought by PCs questing for a plane shift at low levels.  Ostiariuses who tend stable portals are likely to figure heavily in the lore as well, becoming landmarks unto themselves.  In a low-magic campaign, an ostiarius might be one of the only outsiders a party ever meets—a dark, seductive figure hinting at whole other realities lying just out of reach…or worse yet, just within.

The war college of the Legion of Might has a particularly demanding and seductive professor of rhetoric: an ostiarius who came to seduce the third head of the Legion…and having succeeded, never left.  His “salary” is whichever students fall under his sway—never more than three a semester—who are subsequently deemed washouts.  Adventurers trying to infiltrate the war college will find him a sympathetic ear and an invaluable source of magical assistance…but the prices he charges for his services begin at a pound of flesh and grow ever steeper.

The ostiarius Moriel tends a Shadow gate in an unusual place: Heaven itself.  Pallas is an archon-held garrison city near where the Second Heaven gives way to the lawful neutrality of Agria-Thrace.  Moriel’s charge is a disk of roiling black energy under an arch in the shadow of the basilica there.  The archons would exile or execute Moriel if they could, but as long as the faith of Rageth the Self-Flagellator is popular among Pallas’s angels, they may not move against him.

Invited to the Spring Fete as an ambassador from the Plane of Shadow, an ostiarius begins to twist the royal garden party to his ends.  After subtly using his spell-like abilities to throw the festivities into confusion, he makes his way to the hedge maze to enthrall the princess and persuade her to plane shift away with him.  Musketeer adventurers hoping to rescue her must navigate the maze and contend with startled guests, dangerous living topiaries, and the kyton’s fetchling, augur, and lampadarius footmen.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #64 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 176

The full entry in PAP #64: Beyond the Doomsday Door has an extended section exploring ostiarius rhetoric and skill at persuasion you’ll want to check it if you dig role-playing these outsiders.

On another note, Magic of Faerûn had a fey take on gatekeepers: a Huge fey known as the crossroads guardian.

I’m sure one of you is now going to tell me which Hellraiser franchise cenobite inspired the ostiarius.  Since I’m never going to watch those movies ever, I’ll take your word for it.

I’m really psyched at how this radio show turned out (aside from the fact that the stream ripper kicked on a minute late).  Songs for Father’s Day—including, yes, a certain Martha Wainwright song—Teen Men, new Indigo Girls, classic Belly, a dash of reggae, and more.  Stream and download it here!

(Link good till Monday, 6/29, at midnight.  If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


The oma are space whales. 

Space.  Whales.

Space whales with lightning-trapping energy baleen.  Weighing in at Str 52!  That can capsize starships!


You can ride them, too!  And not just on their backs, like you would those punk-ass astral leviathans.  Naw, you ride Jonah-style inside the oma’s stomach!  (Assuming you survive its lightning maw and acid-washed first stomach.  And you have to Save to be…ahem…“safely excreted.”  But still!  Space whales!)

Sure, they’re kind of a space fantasy trope—so much so that Pathfinder has at least two of them (see above re: the astral leviathan)—but there are damn good reasons for that.  Space is big.  Your characters need an easy—well, kinda easy—way of getting from planet to planet.  And surely outer dragons need to eat something besides solar flares.  Plus energy baleen is awesome.  Bring on the space whales!

Powering the giant ring that holds the world of Shatterhome together requires lightning farmed on the gas giant Andropane.  But when oma begin feeding in the system, they pose a threat to the entire operation, particularly as they begin to breed.  Can they be reasoned with?  Driven off?  Or is it a choice between the space whales’ survival and Shatterhome’s?

Spacefaring adventurers come across a rogue oma, a great melanistic beast famed for smashing ships in the starry void. But close examination reveals the black beast’s movements and habits seem erratic and sluggish.  The oma is actually controlled from inside its gut by a yah-thelgaad (see Pathfinder Adventure Path #88: Valley of the Brain Collectors).  And ship-smashing is only one of the aberration’s schemes.  It has infected another oma with a weapons factory/tumor, and a third with a cyst of miniature black-hole-producing (treat as spheres of annihilation) prayer-bombs.

Chasing a contemplative thought criminal, adventurers are stymied when the brainy fugitive solar-sails away to another star system entirely.  A brethedan fixer offers a solution—hitching a ride on (or inside) an oma during the flare migration.  Surely the party can survive that?  And the rumors of a demodand war-spiral between here and there are probably nothing, right?

Distant Worlds 62 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 209

Last night’s Tumblr back-and-forth re: guyads was fun, but I’m actually kicking myself I didn’t play with the oceanid’s gender in some of the adventure seeds.  Lazy thinking on my part, even if explained by overwork.

Do I even need to link to the teaser for The Leviathan?  Of course I do. 

Also: Dragon Magazine space whales!  Other reasons to read that issue: suggestions for piracy-focused Spelljammer campaigns, the aranea nation of Herath, and some of the first linnorms ever in 2e AD&D.

Spelljammer fans, remember that I am sadly ignorant of your world(s).  (Though I do now own—but have not yet read—The Astromundi Cluster.)  So now is the time to educate me about Spelljammer space whales in your comments/emails.

Monday, June 22, 2015


If nereids are the enchantresses of the water fey and bog nixies are the witches, that basically makes oceanids the druids and water elementalists.  These nymphs eschew the beguiling habits of their sisters for the magic of the waves, weather, and sea life.  In fact, their bodies are even part water, only resolving into legs on land. 

Since they live in the wide-open oceans, oceanids still regard mortals as novelties.  Thus they generally like encounters with people, especially flatterers…but say the wrong thing and they will hurl waves, waterspouts, and elementals at you with the fury of a tropical storm.

PS: I was a little surprised at first that oceanids are less powerful than nereids—oceans are bigger places than rivers, lakes, bays, and seas, after all.  Then again, life in the pelagic zone, while never precisely calm, has its own natural rhythms, and oceanids reflect that.  Whereas life closer toward land means facing all kinds of threats and temptations, so perhaps nereids have grown in strength by necessity.  (This may also explain the differences between their magic.)

Also Wikipedia reminded me that in Greek mythology oceanids are the daughters of titans, whereas nereids (while also being daughters of titans) more closely associate with their heirs, the victorious gods.  If your campaign has similar divine power struggles in its ancient past, an old-order vs. new-order conflict is one explanation for the power difference.

A vain oceanid falls in love with an ice sculptor’s rendition of her…so naturally she abducts the sculptor.  Her galvo majordomo is less than amused to be tending to this weak, non-water-breathing ape, and plans to sell him to sahuagin fleshcrafters.

A pilot plies her trade from a small shack on Pikefin Wharf.  Known to be bitter and acerbic to the extreme, she nevertheless knows her trade—no ship in her care has ever foundered, run aground, or been lost to storm.  The cause of her bitterness is exile: She is an oceanid forced to shelter on land, replenishing herself with a swim at dawn and dusk.  Whatever her trespass, she clearly still fears retribution, and will kill to keep her secret.  If befriended, her local knowledge and waveglide ability could make the difference in a coming battle, but spending too long in deep water may alert her enemies.

In order to be crowned archdruid, an adventuring druid must first challenge the leaders of the five Low Circles.  The Circle of Sea and Sky is not led by a druid, however, but by an oceanid.  She favors dueling with summoned nature’s allies, and in addition to the usual orca or moray eel a druid of her talents might summon, she can also raise spiny creatures from depths rarely seen by men (treat each as a manticore with a swim speed of 50 ft. and a fly speed of 30 ft. (clumsy)).  Any cheating or aid from outside parties (such as the druid’s fellow adventurers) will be met with a blast of water telekinesis.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 208

Hey all, I’m getting the entries out basically on time, but responding to mail, thoughts on recent RPG book purchases, and any of the other things I like to do in this space still have to take a backseat until work calms down.  Keep writing and reblogging, though!  You guys are great.

Edit: Attention markmoreland and wesschneider: Now that guyads are canon in in Pathfinder, might I propose the broceanid?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ocean Giant

From an adventurer’s perspective, ocean giants are like storm giants, just…more so.  More tempestuous.  At CR 14, more powerful.  And with the vortex spell-like ability and a 50% chance to be chaotic evil, way more likely to drag the entire party down beneath the waves to drown or be crushed in the depths.

Essentially, it’s the difference between Zeus and Poseidon.  Zeus had his moods, but they came and passed like storms.  Poseidon’s curse, on the other hand, haunted Odysseus for 10 agonizing years—a surly supernatural malice that battered against everything and everyone Odysseus came in contact with, like waves against a rickety dock.  Ocean giants are like that—even the chaotic good ones are slower to anger but take far longer to return to brooding calm, and the evil ones rule by fiat, fear, and fists clenched in covetous rage…for decades.

Since losing his family’s conch shell horn to a triton in an ill-considered bet, Millainus Stormcaller has stewed below the waves, obsessing over the loss.  When the triton enters a race from Bronze Isle to Breakneck Bay, the ocean giant finally sees a way to retrieve his horn without losing face.  Efforts that foils his plans, particularly from meddling land-walkers, will be met with rage that eventually boils over into outright murder, all thoughts of saving face swept away in the angry tide of the giant’s wounded pride.

In Acacia, storm giants are exceedingly rare, born only from cloud-ocean giant unions.  When Don Vaxos’s storm giant son prepares to wed a cloud giant maid against his wishes, the ocean giant takes it personally, using an ancient ritual to drag the entire festhall to the bottom of the ocean.  The son has just enough time to scream a message to a roc ally, who in turn races off to find the only adventurers she trusts.  Now it’s a race against time to rescue the cloud giant wedding guests from the sea floor before their air runs out.

Festooned in spines and barbs, the Palace of Urchinheart was never a welcoming place.  But ever since its ocean giant lord fell under the sway of a kyton envoy, it has become a place of nightmares.  Now sailors vanish beneath the waves to fuel ever-darker rites, and the lord’s household is in turmoil preparing for his marriage to a kyton termagant who appears part woman, part armored whale, part metal sea scorpion, and part bloated anglerfish.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 127

Apparently I like wedding adventure seeds today.  Also, I’m pretty sure that first adventure scenario also involves asp cultists, griffon riders, and a vortex of radiant violet water, but I don't know how.

Also, a great model for both storm and ocean giants is the Master of the Straits from Jacqueline Carey’s various Kushiel novels.

If you’re looking for the nymph water strider, we covered it back here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


There are people and creatures that are chaotic neutral because they are free spirits, driven by whims, resent strictures and traditions, or simply have a childlike innocence when it comes to notions of ethics and morality.

And then there are creatures who are chaotic neutral because the little bastards just haven’t decided to bite you yet.

Nycars are Tiny kin to linnorms, though thankfully without their magic.  They are selfish hoarders, wasteful hunters, and generally disagreeable.  They are also hard to spot, hard to catch (note that Elusive (Ex) special quality), and have a poison bite.  Thankfully, they live far from civilization, so none of the above should be an issue.

…Unless a spellcaster binds one as a familiar and brings it to town.  In which case, watch out for the safety of your own familiar and any shiny jewelry you might be carrying.  (And naturally the spellcaster who binds this miniature linnorm is likely to be just as frustrating and quarrelsome as his pet.)

Tormented by highland raiders, inhabitants of a quiet thorp decide to move back to the crannog where their grandparents once lived (before more prosperous times allowed them to move off the lake to greener pastures).  There is a complication, however: a nycar has moved into the abandoned lake fort and claimed it as his own.  If he can’t scare off the settlers immediately with a brazen hissing display, he slinks away to wait and pick them off one by one with his poison bite.

A nycar stowed away in a longboat destined for the lands of the People of the Raven.  Finding itself on a strange island with no natural predators, the nycar has feasted well and stolen many interesting objects, including several ceremonial rattles and a string of amethyst-colored wampum.  The Northman traders will be blamed and trade cut off if the People of the Raven are not mollified.

Several spellcasters are known to have nycar familiars in the Twisted Loch region.  Arcane trickster Marigold Tashem bound a roly-poly nycar she befriended and made grand plans for rehabilitating him, but in truth his lust for treasure and corner-cutting have only reinforced her own.  A wheelchair-bound kobold sorcerer uses a nycar to defend his status in the tribe, insisting they share the blood of linnorms.  A wizard in the employ of Northman crime lord Sørgun Half-Troll uses a nycar familiar to aid his boss’s interrogations—acid being far more useful than beatings in coercing honor-bound vikings into forsaking their oaths.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 207

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Nosois are not only my favorite psychopomp, but also probably my favorite familiar.  Heck, they’re one of my favorite monsters in Pathfinder, period.  A little bird wearing a funerary mask working as a librarian or file clerk in Purgatory?  How could you not love that?  There are Studio Ghibli movies whose premises aren’t that good!

I also love how flexibly the GM can play these monsters.  As a masked, utterly silent whippoorwill popping out of invisibility to haunt the party, the nosoi is reliably disturbing.  Or it could be a chatty (assuming you speak Abyssal, Celestial, or Infernal) gossip with a graveyard-shift ER doc’s sense of humor who’s always trying to cadge food scraps and steal grave goods.  (In my head they all have bad Hollywood Cockney accents: “Wot, dis fing?  Too right I nicked it!  ’Twern’t usin’ it, woz he?”)

And what kind of spellcaster binds one of these as a familiar?  Bestiary 4 indicates they serve “spellcasters with a special connection to or interest in death”—that’s just creepy…white necromancers, maybe, or investigators and inquisitors with the right feats to gain a familiar (as per the Familiar Folio)?  And “spellcasters who keep extensive libraries or prefer meticulous records”—there are plenty of diviners, loremasters, arcanists, and general wizards who fit that bill.  Plenty of improved familiars can handle a card catalog and light filing; what they can’t do is speak with dead.  Other spellcasters who choose nosois might be invested in protecting the cosmic balance or Neutrality as a concept, or having a guide to the Outer Planes not tied to any of the warring alignment factions.

Look, I’ve got a lot of theories and questions.  But what you need are adventures:

The last bequest of Somar Sampat was a magical bauble he kept braided in one long dreadlock.  But Sampat has already been interred.  To claim the bauble, his young heir and her adventuring companions must go into the jungle and dig up Sampat’s grave.  Too bad a covetous nosoi also had his eye on the shiny charm, and has been pecking at the ground ever since, hoping to get his beak on it too.

An escaped soul has hidden itself in an adventurer’s body.  The adventurer does not even have any clue it is there until the nosoi uses speak with dead.  The soul replies through the character’s lips, refusing to come out and provoking the nosoi to anger.

Sometimes death is an adventurer’s first adventure.  A clerical error resurrects a disparate group of would-be adventurers who were killed before they could even take up their blades.  Finding themselves whole and alive in the vaults of Purgatory, they must unite, form bonds of friendship, and escape the byzantine soul repository, all while avoiding the nosoi clerks who are eager to fix what they see as an unfortunate—and permanently solvable—mistake.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #47 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 220

See Pathfinder Adventure Path #47: Ashes at Dawn for the full ecology, habitat and society details.

Also, if you want a darker take on nosois, remember the name comes from the diseases Pandora released in Greek myth.

Probably the best clash of accents I ever heard was my old roommate, an Oxford grad, describing how a rather dodgy cousin of a friend offered to help him get a new bike after his was stolen.  The cousin promised he could even get him the same type, and at an extreme discount.

Oxford: “So what's the catch?  That’s offfully cheap for a bike,”

Cousin, confidentially: “Well, it’s nicked, idn’t it?

Oxford: “Yes, I prezzuuumed it was nicked, but are we talking nicked by happenstance or nicked to order?” 

That still kills me to this day.

Neither heat, nor humidity, nor meddlesome bosses could keep me from my appointed radio show. Featuring new Mates of State, old Velocity Girl, a ripped-from-the-headlines set of racially problematic music, and more great stuff.  Download and enjoy!

(Link good till Monday, 6/22, at midnight.  If the feed skips, Save As and enjoy in iTunes.)