Monday, July 27, 2015

Shadow Drake

Shadow drakes are tiny, and by that I mean, stat-block Tiny.  Which may bum out those of you who, like me, really dig shadow monsters.  (There’s a reason we have stats for a shadow mastiff, after all, not a shadow French bulldog.  And the umbral dragon?  The most powerful primal dragon of all, reaching CR 22 at Great Wyrm age.)  The shadow drake might as well be called the shadow procompsognathus.

Until you remember a pack of procompsognathuses ended a certain theme park designer’s life in the novel..

Plus, that means instead of hiding shadow drakes in the wilderness, you can have them right in the middle of your favorite urban environment.  They can be random encounters!  They can be familiars for evil spellcasters!  They can be the Thieves’ Guild’s eyes and ears…mot to mention its wings and prehensile magical-ring-stealing tails!  And given their speed, their skill at flying (+23!), their ability to blend into the shadows, and their stygian breath, they can make your party want to never explore what that noise is up in the chimney again.

An assassination…didn’t happen.  Now the head of the Assassins’ Guild wants to know why.  Someone owes someone who owes someone who owes him a favor, and soon some luckless novice adventures are sent up to the bell tower to look for evidence of what happened to the triggerman.  Assuming they can skirt around the local watch and make it up the tower, they find the crossbowman lying dead, with chunks ripped out of him and (oddly) signs of frostbite on his face and extremities.  And right after the adventurers make this discovery, the shadow drakes who were nesting up in the bell tower attack.

Adventurers are hired to meet a courier at the docks—he’s expected on the next kestrel from the Elfholds in the morning.  But with favorable winds the ship arrives early, and as evening falls some curious hanivers steal the courier’s pouch.  His desperation for the item causes the fey to taunt him and flit from boat to boat—which is when the adventurers arrive, word having been sent to their inn that the ship has come in.  But by the time they deal with the majority of the gremlins, the one bearing the pouch makes his way inland and stumbles into shadow drake territory.  Now the precious item is in the hands of more dangerous predators, and night is falling fast…

Pevin Gimleteye isn't just feared because he’s the enforcer all the underage pickpockets answer to.   He’s feared because he commands a rampage of shadow drakes.  Not quite familiars and not quiet pets, they nevertheless eagerly do his bidding—not least because he lets them have the eyes and meaty bits of any of the touts and nimblefingers he deems too sluggish or unprofitable in their trade.  A party of sellswords might run into him and his beasts in the course of their various adventures; alternately, as they gain in renown he may call on them when a local cabal of wizards calls away and bind his pets.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 80

Russ Taylor’s “Ecology of the Drake” from Pathfinder Adventure Path #92: The Hill Giant’s Pledge has more on drakes, including where to find them on Golarion.

Also, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but the shadow drake made me think of it: One of the best anniversary issues of Dragon (which, naturally, were dragon-themed)—issue #146 to be precise—introduced drakes as a family of pseudodragon-like creatures ideally suited for being wizard’s familiars.  (Hence the title, “Dragons are Wizards’ Best Friends,” authored by David E. Cates.)  While most of them wouldn't gel with Pathfinder’s rampaging horrors, the article’s illusionist shadow drakes could be emulated by giving Pathfinder drakes class levels and easing off the evil.

So a quick note on con etiquette: Otakon was this weekend, and not only was it awesome as usual, but it was also really chill.  That is, fan behavior was excellent—orderly lines, people weren’t taking pictures in the middle of hallway traffic, no 15-minute games of Marco Polo or “Buttscratcher!”, etc.  Part of that seemed to be that the crowd felt smaller than last year—the past few years have been nuts, attendance-wise—and my amateur theory is that cooler temperatures and the off-site Masquerade and concerts drew more people out of the convention center than usual.  (Plus I’m wondering if Baltimore Pride being the same weekend ate up some hotel rooms?)  Again, these are all amateur theories.  A simpler reason might be that with so many cons within driving distance of Baltimore/D.C., people are just more experienced, better con-goers.  For whatever reason, it was a really nice con.

A lot of my readers will also be glad to note that Otakon went out of its way to convert some of the private, family-style [Men symbol] [Women symbol] [large Disability Access symbol] bathrooms with signs that said “Gender-Neutral” and [Disability Access symbol], offering con-goers who identified outside the binary a specific space of their own.

Awesome!  Except that the disabled access part of that equation comes first.  Always.

(The design of the replacement sign didn't help—“GENDER-NEUTRAL” was huge and the disability access symbol was now the small kind you see on most bathrooms, almost an afterthought, like: “I guess a disabled person could use this space.”  But by the time this incident occurred the sign had been removed or fallen down, making what followed even more facepalmy…)

So there was an incident.  Someone came into one of these restrooms—fine, that happens; the door wasn’t locked because I’d left to hold a place in line—and upon spotting my chronically ill significant other, proceeded to tell her that she needed to leave because this was their bathroom, not hers. While she was taking her medicine.  Through a feeding tube, no less.  While sitting in her wheelchair.  In a bathroom designed and designated for the disabled.

Note that I’m very carefully not labeling this person.  I don’t know how this person identifies, I don't know how this person was presenting, I don't know what pronouns they were using, I don’t know the reasons why they preferred to use the gender-neutral bathroom…and I do know they were just one person being clueless, not a stand-in for an entire community.

But they failed at that moment.  They failed to realize that their journey was not the only journey, or the hardest journey, at that particular place and point in time.  And in their excitement to have a space of their own, they failed to recognize that that space was a shared one, and that they had a responsibility to pause, to reconsider, and to wait for just a few minutes, so that they could afford someone else the same privacy and dignity they were so desperately seeking.

Just something to keep in mind for future cons, and life in general.


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  2. Since Tiny creatures can be made into swarms, a veritable cloud of shadow drakes flying at you spouting insults and bolts of stygian cold with equal propensity could be interesting and deadly.