Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tyrant Jelly

Giant bee royal jelly is special.  In a hive, it’s what produces a new queen.  When harvested by adventurers, it can aid in healing wounds and curing disease.  And when an ochre jelly devours a larval queen made fat on royal jelly—presumably a rare, perhaps once-in-a-century occurrence—the result is an equally rare monster: the mythic tyrant jelly.

Nobody expects an ooze to be mythic or intelligent, and that works to your advantage with this monster.  After adventurers fight a hive of too-deadly, too-well-organized bees, they’ll be looking for some malicious druid or thriae to blame, completely overlooking the honey-colored slime that oozes maliciously from the very walls…

A tyrant jelly has used giant ant servitors to turn the entrance to one of the nation’s most famous dungeons into a maze of dead ends and pits.  It also regularly calves off blobby pieces of itself via the dungeon’s electricity-warded door, and uses its control over the resulting ochre jellies to set up grisly ambushes for would-be relic hunters.

Fleeing a camarilla of sadistic thriae seers, a company of thriae soldiers stole away with a recently hatched larval queen.  Their hopes to found a new colony were dashed when an ochre jelly gobbled up their future liege.  Now the poor humiliated thriae feel helpless to do anything but tend to the needs of the mythic tyrant jelly, in hopes that the young queen may still be somewhere inside that vile muck.

After an ochre jelly engulfed the egg capsule laid by a fiendish deadly mantis, the result was a tyrant jelly ruled by a legion of wills, rather than a single mind.  This mad tyrant jelly calls all manner of mantises, wasps, and centipedes to itself, sending them off on strange, even competing errands as the minds inside the egg capsule vie for control of the mythic blob.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 266

And with that entry…we’ve made it all the way through Bestiary 4!!!

Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since we tackled the udaeus.  It seems like the time went a lot quicker—probably because now that we’re on our second trip through the alphabet I don’t have to juggle four Bestiary hardcovers at once anymore!

Savvy readers will notice that I didn’t say we’ve finished the book…because we haven’t.  There are just over a dozen Bestiary 4 monsters I had to postpone tackling for one reason or another, including some PC races like the changeling and some heavy-hitters like Dagon.  But we’ll get to them, never fear.  In fact, as of tonight the marrowstone golem’s entry is up, and we tackled the coral golem just the other day as well.  So give those entries some likes/comments/reblogs, keep an eye out for me slipping some B4 baddies into the feed from time to time, and get ready for two solid months of Occult Bestiary monsters on the way!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


We’ve barely gotten our occult feet (or our occult tattoos/fungalcaps) wet and already we’ve come to the biggest, baddest monster in the Occult Bestiary: Tychilarius.

In Pathfinder’s Golarion setting, Tychilarius is part of the Dominion of the Black—horrors from the void between the stars that are little understood.  Don't mistake these nightmares for Lovecraftian Great Old Ones/Elder Gods, though.  (Those the Dominion actively opposes, actually.)  Instead they operate more like Babylon 5’s Shadows.  They are of this reality, but the represent this reality at its worst—an empire of psychics and scientists, flesh farms and living warships, demanding fealty and worship but offering only rendering and consumption or reconstitution.

Tychilarius is a leader of these entities currently trapped on Golarion—well, not on, but near (as otherworldly prisons go).  It resembles a sarlacc (original release, of course) with eye tentacles and a truly awful maw.  Born from thousands of creatures destroyed and then regurgitated in a bolus by a black hole, it is an engine of psychic destruction and physical transformation (via a horrible digestive tract best left unexplored).

In other words, it is bad news…and its release from the aforementioned prison would be an appropriate climax to an occult or Dominion of the Black-themed campaign.

But of course this is a setting-neutral blog.  That doesn't make Tychilarius any less scary in your home setting.  In your world it could indeed by a nascent Great Old One, a divine miscarriage, a qlippoth that shed its Abyssal taint, or an über-neothelid/caulborn/neh-thalggu.  The point is Tychilarius is big.  It’s mind-shattering.  It can fly through space and devour creatures only to spit them back up a day later as aberrations.  It is an apocalypse from the stars, and it is almost free.

A group of adventurers were palace pages when a well-mannered prophet first came into the king’s court and spoke of the Advent of the Hunger.  Much has happened since then, but encounters with similar prophets…as well as cultists, strange aberrations, weird plots of summoning, and worse…have dogged the adventurers ever since.  Now that a beast from beyond the stars has landed in Ni Carmel, it seems the prophet was telling the truth…and indeed, worked very diligently to see his prophecy fulfilled.

Strange things live in the places between the planes.  When demons were first birthed by the Abyss, one qlippoth paragon’s response was to devour itself rather than submit to the new order.  In the end it managed to self-digest itself into a new entity devoid of Abyssal taint.  It now feasts like a maggot on godflesh wherever it can find it—the divine corpses in the Deep Astral, bodies piled up on the Morgue Moon of Tarter, sleeping insectile pupae in the Star Cocoon, and beyond—in search of some new apotheosis.

Holy adventurers have fought the Servants of Sin their entire careers—dark priests, undead, demon worshipers, and diabolists in the main.  But the Servants of Gluttony have always been…different.  Bloodmages.  Kuru.  Otherworldly aberrations.  Psychic vampires.  Fear eaters and intellect devourers.  Creatures with no seeming connection beyond the sin itself.  This lack of coordination has always seemed a liability.  But when the Scion of Sin—a bloated, tarnished copper great wyrm—begins to birth the Devourer of Stars without the Church being the wiser, Gluttony now looks like a hydra whose disparate heads have ensured its eventual success.

Occult Bestiary 56–57

Turns out I never ordered Occult Adventures—um, yikes!—which would explain why it hasn’t shown up in my mail yet.  (Apparently I got distracted while ordering the Occult Bestiary, Occult Mysteries, and Occult Realms.  Go figure.)  So despite the fact that we’re going to be very psychic monster/magic-heavy for the next few months, it may be several weeks before I’m able to reliably reference the new classes and special abilities (though of course I’ll do my best).  My bad.

What did arrive in the mail?  Inner Sea Races.  As usual, it’s gorgeous, and given how thick it is with lore and racial trait options, I think I’m going to be very pleased…

Monday, September 28, 2015


Google isn’t serving up a lot about the tunche, but it appears to be a monster of Amazonian (rainforest, not Greek) extraction.  Pathfinder’s version is a plant-like jungle fey roughly shaped like a praying mantis/jaguar hybrid.  Players used to contending with grigs and sprites had best beware: This monster is CR 17, vastly stronger than a human (Str 33), and packs a poison that saps Con and Wis.  And with 10+ plant-related spell-like abilities under its fronds, a tunche can make escape a very dim possibility if it catches PCs when their spellcasters are low on spells or out of commission (such as just after they've left whatever horrible Mayan-esque pyramid you coaxed them into exploring).

One note from the mythology worth playing up: While a tunche usually reserves its wrath for despoilers of the forest, it often likes to lure passersby into returning its whistling call.  (In game terms, this is represented by the tunche’s sound mimicry and ventriloquism abilities).  According to its own twisted sense of honor, the fey seems to consider those who engage in the call-and-response fair game to devour, no matter how respectful of the forest they are.  As a loremaster’s calculating spell engine once put it, “The only winning move is not to play.”

A stone-and-crystal spiderweb serves as the only path to a long-abandoned mountain temple.  The Advanced crysmals that laboriously crafted the web still scuttle along its gleaming “threads,” dining on mineral veins embedded in the canyon walls.  The real threat though, is a tunche that ambushes anyone leaving the temple, attempting to bull rush them off the stony web.

Travelers in the Avorash Jungle sometimes meet a halfling woman bedecked in orchid blossoms.  She claims to be a queen of the trees and will assign travelers a task they must complete before finishing their journey.  In truth, she is a shapechanged tunche that uses the tests to weed out the unworthy.  Losers fatten her leafy form.

For his final examination to become a true grandmaster, a bard is sent to collect “the cry of the orchid.”  On the surface, this is a reasonable (if nearly impossible) task—previous grandmasters have captured everything from the footfall of a cat to the sound of flying earthbergs crashing in Jotunlund.  In actuality, the assignment is a setup: The bard’s enemies in the college want to see him humbled and then devoured by a tunche.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 265

I’m back!  Turned out my cross-country flights were not conducive to blogging, so eventually I just decided to write last week off and enjoy San Fran/Palo Alto/Redwood City and Davis.  The plan is to be back on schedule this week, never fear!

I’m pretty sure dr-archeville and fortooate have been waiting for this entry for over a year now.

If you’re looking for the trumpeter swan or the tuatara, look here and here.

Why did I wind up posting so little last week?  Because I was catching up with all kinds of West Coast friends!  Including my Vampire GMs from my grad school days (so amazing!), and this guy, with whom I rolled d20s one college summer in a Ravenloft-inspired 2e D&D campaign.  I know him as Mike Sullivan (said all in one breath, to differentiate him from Mike Veloso) but you all (especially you Redditors) know him as the creator of Everyone Is John.  Play it this weekend, why don’t you?

Monday, September 21, 2015


(Image by Rayph Beisner comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

When we were looking at the kasatha, I made it a point to highlight ways that the kasatha was not simply Pathfinder’s thri-kreen.  That said, perhaps I was doth-protesting a bit too much.  Because when I was first browsing the new sample races in the Advanced Race Guide…well, it was hard not to think, “This is how you do Dark Sun in Pathfinder.”  Not because of the kasatha, but because of the trox.  Because once you got past the blasted landscape, sorcerer-kings, defiling and preserving magic, psionics, half-giants, and brutal reconceptualizations of the core races…Dark Sun had a lot of big bugs. 

And trox are big bugs indeed.  (With big warhammers to boot.)

Of course, once trox showed up in Bestiary 4, we had a better sense of where/what roles Pathfinder intended for trox—deep underground, escapees from duergar slavery, grappling masters prone to frenzy.  That makes sense.

But if you want to put them on a harsh desert world to fight in the baking sands of a gladiatorial arena, I’m not going to stop you.

Speaking of which, here are a few other ways to approach trox:

A disowned son of a viscount intends to win back his title and his family’s fortune.  No one in the county will back him—the few fools who initially flocked to his banner were executed for treason (while he rabbited).  Now he is back for another try, only this time he has brought an army of bug-monsters with him.  It turns out the slavery-hating trox have lived secretly in the highlands for years.  They believe they are supporting a freedom fighter, and only extremely persuasive adventurers can convince them of their error.

Having helped them escape from bondage, a couatl and his adventurer allies lead his Chosen People to the home he has chosen for them: a sheltered mountain valley.  Only when they arrive, they discover the valley is occupied by trox.  The couatl assumed that his adventuring friends could lead the people in exterminating the bugs, but they are all taken aback to discover the bugs are intelligent.  Torn between his promise to his people and his desire to do good regardless of the cost, the couatl heads to the heavens to seek out the patron god of the trox (if one exists).  Until he returns, his adventurer friends must keep the peace between the two sides—or make preparations to win the war, should it break out.

The seas of Blight are acidic, courtesy of acid rain that buckets from angry skies.  The resinous byproduct of trox construction seems impervious to the sizzling seas, however, and that means trox mounds are sought-after real estate for coastal and island nations.  As trox burrow deeper into the earth and build toward the sky, they give over the middle layers of their giant mounds to other races, who scrabble and fight for space to farm and dwell in.  The trox never let anyone forget who owns the mounds, though, making them the default law and order—and the aristocracy—within sight of the deadly water.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 264

Hey thirteenfunbreaker, I told you we’d get to the trox!

If you’re looking for the trapper, we covered it back here.

With all the excitement last week, I never got around to posting last week’s radio show!  The link is only good until tonight (Monday, 9/21) at midnight, so if you want it (or even if you’re just curious) the time to stream/download it is now.  Featuring new Yacht and new Thunderbitch (thanks to Melissa of WNRN for pointing those my way), and celebrating 10 years of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-titled record and 20 years of Blur’s The Great Escape.  Whether you’re Team Claret or Team Beaujolais, there’s a song for you right here.

Edit: Sorry for the tardiness on this one.  Hoping to get back on schedule sometime this week courtesy of a long flight to San Fran.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tooth Fairy

(Image by Damien Mammoliti comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Edit: Sorry for the tardiness of this post.  There were Reasons™.  I didn’t want to put up a placeholder post because I like this monster too much to see it buried, and anyway the post was 90% written.  Again, sorry for the delay, and I’ll probably tackle the trox tomorrow or Sunday.

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I love wicked fey.  I don’t mean ridiculously grimdark—I don’t need every trip into Faerie to be American McGee’s Alice—but a Brian Froud-ian wildness is a) required, and b) delightful.  So when I saw tooth fairies previewed over on the Paizo Blog, I knew I was going to be thrilled by them.  Oh sure, they flutter and tap-dance on the line of grimdark, but there’s enough whimsy to them and they’re so well statted that I’m on board all the way.

I mean, that face!  That smile!  Those teeth!  (And don't miss the paralyzing bite buried in the stat block.)  Those pliers!  The exact spell-like abilities you’d expect a tooth fairy to pull off.  And special abilities that perfectly fit the theme without being annoying in-game—yes, you’re going to lose some teeth if you’re unlucky, but it’ll be okay in the end.  Probably.  If not, you’ll have a terrible smile but a great story.

To tooth fairies, teeth are prizes and decoration.  But to other fey, they can be valuable spell components.  Even a typically harmless fey will occasionally hang on to a child’s tooth, just in case the child ever grows up into someone the fey needs to enchant.  To that end, larger fey sometimes keep tooth fairies as pets (albeit dangerous ones), binding them with strong oaths and then releasing them to collect teeth from families the fey have their eyes on.  Adventurers cunning enough to find a fey’s lair should beware cages full of tooth fairies flung like grenades, spilling the violent little brats while the larger fey escapes.

The sidhe don't ever take just one revenge when several will do.  So when bare-knuckle boxer Brampton Hodge splattered mud on a sidhe (treat as an elf aristocrat with the fey creature template) lord’s cloak, the fey made sure Brampton’s name would be just as sullied.  A set of ass’s ears left Hodge so ashamed that he failed to turn up for a fight, causing the locals to mock him as a coward.  Attempting to silence the mockery with his fists landed him in trouble with the law, and the arrest exposed his ears (and exposed him to more mockery).  When the sidhe lord visited him in jail and offered to remove the ears, the price—a boxing match with a satyr brawler of his weight class but well above his skill level—left him a laughingstock among the Fair Folk as well.  The final indignity is that the teeth the satyr knocked out of Brampton’s jaw landed in a fairy ring.  The resulting tooth fairies that sprang up (twisted and warped from being born from adult teeth) have moved into poor Brampton’s lodgings, gleefully tormenting their “father” when they’re not practicing dentistry on the rest of the town.  Brampton will do almost anything to have his life back, and will become a fast ally of whoever helps him.  To him, that means buying ale for his new friends and acting as their personal bouncer.  But his real value—which he does not even realize he possesses—is his connection to almost every important rogue and crime lord in the kingdom.  They hover around the boxing circuit like flies on a midden and regard Brampton as a mascot and friend—a fact savvy adventurers can take advantage of.

Thomas shouldn’t have “borrowed” the book from the rare books library where he did his work-study hours, but the tome—covered in drawings of fairies frolicking and wrapped in what felt like human skin—was too cool not to show his friends.  Opening the book in the rarely used chapel was a better idea—the tooth fairy that burst from the book seemed uncomfortable in the stone space (it seemed to particularly hate being glared at by the mosaic of the Virgin Mary), and fled the chapel after only ripping out two of Thomas’s molars.  Desperate to return the book and end this Labyrinth-ine nightmare, Thomas recruits his friends to help him retrieve his teeth and capture the wicked little fey.  Unfortunately, the stolen molars have sprouted more tooth fairies, and the influx of fey magic into the mundane world has caused a jack-o’-lantern to spring to life as well.  St. Michael’s Academy is about to become a very dangerous place…

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 262

By now you have no doubt recovered from spitting out your Mountain Dews yesterday [Edit: Well, two days ago now] when you realized I wrote “Pokemon ball” (and with no accent mark to boot) instead of Pokéball.  But of course, that was totally because I was channeling a centuries old-dragon, and not because I am old and lame myself.  I know what a pokemans is, honest.

(Actually I was in college for Pokémon’s glory years, so I am completely clueless.  I watched the hell out of some Digimon though.  I just wish it had been around when I needed it as an angsty 6th-grader.)

Edit: So said Reasons™ were that I got a last-minute invite to the City Paper’s Best of Baltimore party, MCed by Dan Deacon (who I finally got to meet and chat with).  But I can’t say that at the top of my post without looking like a jerk, so I’m hiding it here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Time Dragon

INTERVIEWER: And welcome back to PNN for the first annual Dragon Debates.  It’s time for opening statements from the candidates.  Lord Red, we’ll begin with you.

RED DRAGON: Of course, for I am the only dragon that matters.  I am the Lord of Flame.  I am the Emperor of Fear.  My very breath is a holocaust of—

GOLD DRAGON: Really?  We're using that word already?

RED DRAGON: Lower-case H.  I’m not a monster.

INTERVIEWER: Honored Gold, your response.

GOLD DRAGON: I am a force for good and righteousness.   My breath burns just as hot as Red’s, and I breathe chlorine gas as well.

INTERVIEWER: That was, like, three editions ago.

GOLD DRAGON: Wait, what do I have now?

INTERVIEWER: Weakening gas.

GOLD DRAGON: See?  Strength damage!  I am mighty.  And my benevolent hand has guided the course of dynasties.

INTERVIEWER: Most Resplendent Lungwang, you have a rebuttal?

SOVEREIGN DRAGON: Guide dynasties?  I am the living embodiment of dynasty.  I am a guardian of balance.  The scrolls say I was “placed in the skies by the gods themselves to safeguard harmony in the world.”

RED DRAGON: You should be placed in a Pokemon ball.

INTERVIEWER: Gentlewyrms, please—

TIME DRAGON: Hey, am I late?  Ha, just kidding; I’m always right on time.  Check it: time dragon here.

INTERVIEWER: Um…I don't see anything in my notes about a…did you say, “time dragon”?

TIME DRAGON: Yeah, I’m an outer dragon.  We’re kinda busy in space.  And I’m their leader.  Not to brag or anything.  Which basically makes me the most powerful dragon in existence.

INTERVIEWER: Actually, all these representatives on stage have approximately the same stats…

TIME DRAGON: Um, can they survive in space?  Can they fly to another planet?  Can they travel through time?  Are they immortal?

INTERVIEWER: Um, no, I don’t believe so—

TIME DRAGON: That’s what I thought.  WOOOO!!!  TIME DRAGON OUT. *flips table, teleports to before the debate was supposed to start, eats the interviewer, flies to a tropical paradise planet to tan*

Sometimes even time itself needs a guardian.  And while the Watcher may be enough for the Marvel Universe, Pathfinder universes’ watchers need to have a bit more bite.

Adventurers attempt to stop a fell ritual…and only partially succeed.  While they stop the cultists’ plot to call the Great Old Ones, they don’t close the gate in time, and the entire tower is ripped out of reality and time into another realm.  Now hounds of Tindalos and worse crawl out of the walls, and a time dragon sentinel pursues the flying tower, intent on smashing whoever is inside for so badly unraveling the fabric of history.

While many time dragons watch history from the edge of space and reality, others lead quiet lives closer to their charges.  Deep in the desert lies a sunken archive that contains, among other things, all the world’s historical records, tended by a time dragon and his loyal syrinx librarians.  Except the owl-faced scholars are not loyal—they are participants in one of the longest cons in the universe.  The syrinx and select yak folk and rakshasa allies are slowly rewriting the world’s history to craft a darker, more totalitarian existence firmly under their rule.  (This is no easy task beneath the nose of a dragon with share memory and legend lore, but the beast-men are nothing if not patient and careful.)  After millennia of service no amount of evidence will persuade the time dragon of the syrinx’s duplicity, so adventurers who wish to save the present will have no choice but to fight.

Those who know of the Aeon War speak of it in the past tense—an age where time dragons and aeons took up arms against each other across the spaceways and throughout the multiverse over a fundamental disagreement about the nature and destiny of universal balance.  Eventually, four mortal heroes from a backwater world turned the tide, using words and blades to forge an accord between the mighty powers.  All this is far in the past…only it’s not, as adventurers find out when their time dragon ally takes them back in time to fight in the war and assume the roles of the mythical mortal heroes.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 70–71

Shades of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Dr. Who in those seeds?  Yes.

ME: Is this post okay? 

ARTISTICLICENSETOKILL: Ha!  I like it.  Jew-approved.

ME: Score.  I mean, shalom.

ARTISTICLICENSETOKILL: Quit while you're ahead.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


(Image comes from artist Dave Melvin’s DeviantArt page and is and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Man, what is it with horse-headed evil things?  The Mares of Diomedes, kelpies, nightmares, leukodaemons…  Maybe it’s because horses retain a certain lively, sometimes wicked spark that has been snuffed out of other herbivores we’ve domesticated.  Or because the balance of power between horse and rider can shift so quickly—one minute you’re the master, the next just helplessly along for the ride. 

Or maybe it’s because horse skulls are just freakin’ creepy.

Anyway, the tikbalang is a creature from Philippine folklore that, like so many creatures in folklore, likes to lead travelers astray.  The Pathfinder version has got a number of magical talents to aid it in its endeavors, from the usual illusory effects right up to and including banishing victims into an extradimensonal maze.  And then of course it can puncture you with its spines, trample you, or simply devour you (after “pack[ing your] mouth with leaves and moss to stifle [your] screams”—a nice little tidbit from Bestiary 4).

Unlike many other similar creatures in folklore, there’s no one good way to ward off a tikbalang’s attention.  Bestiary 4 mentions that it can be “bribed or mollified […] with offerings or the performance of strange rituals, such as singing a song, wearing a shirt inside out, or giving the monster bread and honey”…but the exact offering can change day to day with no explanation or advance warning.  One imagines that peasants who live near a tikbalang rely on an assortment of these rituals to satisfy the creature, as well as their own familiarity with the jungle and basic good luck.  Out-of-town adventurers will likely have to rely on the old standbys: swords and spells.

Adventurers must traverse the jungle along a narrow path that just barely holds the wild at bay.  Worse yet, tikbalangs haunt the path, always spying for an opportunity to lure the gullible into the underbrush or even seize a victim and pull him up into the trees.  Fortunately, a shaman the adventurers befriended secures them the services of an exceptional guide: a chain-smoking kapre.  The plant creature serves the forest first, however, and if the adventurers show disrespect to nature the kapre will leave them for the tikbalangs to hunt…or worse, join the tikbalangs in tormenting them.

A particularly sickly tikbalang (for simplicity’s sake, use the Young template) haunts a moss-hung forest tainted by necromancy.  But the monstrous humanoid’s infirmity has not stopped it from racking up a body count.  Its specialty is leaving the beheaded bodies of its victims for their friends to find.  Thanks to the forest’s vile taint, many of the absent heads have reanimated as beheaded (use stats for shrieking medusa head from Pathfinder Adventure Path 43: Haunting of Harrowstone) that follow the tikbalang like hungry hounds.

Adventurers transport a cleric to his new post, a monastery above a sugar cane plantation, only to find the town in fear.  The rapid expansion of the settlers’ farms has disturbed and displaced the strange fey known only as thin men.  For revenge the thin men have lured a tikbalang and his soucouyant bride to the settlement, promising them man-flesh aplenty.  Now new dead turn up daily.  If the adventurers succeed in slaying or coming to terms with the tikbalang and the thin men, the blood crone will attempt to steal away on their ship to spread her evil to new lands.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 260

Monday, September 14, 2015


Tiberoliths are crude but very effective constructs, the primitive antecedents of the golems that PCs know today.  This is apparent in their stone construction (hence the “-lith” in the name), the use of vegetable sinews, the strange (al?)chemistry of acids and electricity that power them, and their rudimentary protection against spells.  Tiberoliths might be all that is left of an ancient civilization or even the key to unlocking it…assuming it doesn't smash you to pieces first.

To open a gate to another world,  adventurers must complete a ritual in the center of a henge—the core component of which involves tying a willing participant onto a stone altar.  Once the final knot is tied and the ritual begun, several of the henge’s half-sunken stones suddenly pull themselves out of the ground and attack.  Apparently the rites to quiet the site’s tiberoliths did not survive with the rest of the ritual.

An ancient society’s constructs all run on the same primitive dynamo.  In order to activate a walking tower, adventurers must first harvest three of the puzzle box-like contraptions from tiberoliths—ideally before they have expended all their shockwave attacks, otherwise the adventurers will have to jumpstart the dynamos with lightning.

A tarnished bronze dragon has taken up residence in the ruin of an ancient civilization.  Not keen on having his research interrupted, the dragon was pleased to discover the ruin’s tiberoliths ignore him but move with stolid efficiency to crush any humanoid intrusion.  The bronze, meanwhile, studies the ruins with interest, finding conflicting signs of both human and giant or cyclopean habitation.  In the damp ruins, the bronze’s tarnish seems to be less a spiritual metaphor than a physical reality, as its scales have turned brown and green.  The bronze pays no mind, even ignoring the steadily growing goiter it has developed that pulsates with the same blue glow as the tiberoliths…

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 259

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tenebrous Blight

A giant mushroom that messes with your mind?  Meh.  In Golarion’s Darklands (or any of the WotC worlds’ Underdarks) I’m surprised when the mushrooms don’t mess with your mind.  A mushroom that with ties to the Shadow Plane that seems to dim the light?  Again, sure, why not?  But a mushroom whose spores permanently alter any flame that is exposed to them, creating black flames that aid in hypnosis?  That’s interesting.  That’s as interesting as the halfling race’s Blackflame in the Known World/Mystara!  I don't know what I think about it (or how the fantasy physics would even work) but the notion of Underdark races religiously tending to rare blight fires (the same way early man probably tended flames left over from lightning strikes) is really appealing.  And the fact that xulgaths (the original, non-degenerate—so…just generate?—troglodytes) are immune to the spores writes you some adventure seeds right there.

Novice adventurers look for work with a caravan.  They don’t have the experience to join the ’van proper, so they're left with the unenviable assignment of guarding a fortune-teller’s wagon.  All goes well enough at first, with the adventurers and the fortune-teller getting each other out of one scrape or another along the road and in the small hamlets they stop at.  Then disaster strikes: A hobgoblin raid leaves the wagon tipped on its side…and in the process, the fortune-teller’s carefully tended blight fire goes out.  Fortunately the caves where she first discovered the strange fire are not far, and she gives the adventurers her last few magic items if they will help her find a new source of the flame.  The subsequent spelunking takes them far deeper than they expected…which may be a good thing, since by the time they find the source of the blight fire (a tenebrous blight grove) the adventurers will be experienced enough to survive it.

A gnome studies a disease that has afflicted his race since their exile from the fey realms.  He believes the color-leaching properties of the tenebrous’s blight’s psychic trauma spores may offer some clues—perhaps even an antidote.  He taps adventurers to help him find the shadow fungi, only to discover a grove tended by dread gnomes (see the Advanced Race Guide).  The dread gnomes attempt to coerce the party into joining them at a feast where tenebrous blight steaks are the main course…and the spores are unavoidable.

Whenever a certain svartalfar sets up a meet to discus business, he does so with a tenebrous blight on hand.  He finds that customers who can stand up to the paranoia-inducing mushrooms tend to be reliable business partners, and anyway his xulgath second-in-command is immune.

Occult Bestiary 55

Stats for the tenebrous blight don’t seem to be online yet, but you can always find them here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tattoo Guardian

It’s our first monster from the Occult Bestiary!  [Stan Lee voice] Because you asked it for it, True Believers! [/Stan]  I won’t pretend to be an expert on the new rules—heck, my copy of Occult Adventures hasn’t even shipped yet—but we’ll muddle through as best we can.

Tattoo guardians combine some of the best features of magical tattoos and familiars—they rise up in defense when their master is threatened, then return to become a simple (if intricate and eye-catching) adornment when the threat has passed.  In the Golarion setting, these tattoos tend to adorn nobles and the clergy, but on your world, who knows how common or rare they might be?

Best of all for PCs’ purposes, all you need to have a tattoo guardian of your own is a 9th-level caster!  Or you can do it yourself—what better use for the Craft skill can you think of?

Just beware—in the rare cases where the tattoo guardian survives and its master doesn’t, sometimes the tattoo guardian gets a splinter of its master’s sentience…and the results are never good.

A crime lord offers to settle a dispute with a party of adventures via a test of strength: a wrestling match, his champion versus theirs.  Only once the champions come to grips, the dragon tattoo adorning the crime lord’s representative animates and begins carving up his challenger.  Protesting will do little good—“We said no spells, magic items, familiars, or outside assistance…can I help it if the tattoo is none of the above?”—and they are outnumbered, so the adventurers may have to get creative to save their friend.

An animate tattoo of a two-headed eagle has been attacking city guardsmen.  The tattoo matches the one that sits on the back of a well-known local paladin—or did, since the paladin just turned up dead with no tattoo on his body.  Investigation by a party of novice city guardsmen reveals that the paladin was murdered, and the tattoo guardian is hunting those it believes responsible while it still has the will to do so.

A half-elf nude model is the talk of the university town of Fairhope.  Bards and painters alike compete to respectively sing her praises and sketch her curves, with some of the more ambitious artists even painting her body like a canvas for use in avant-garde shows.  But not everyone is so pleased, included the local clerics and Fairhope’s strongly traditionalist elven community.  At a show some adventurers are attending, a knife flies through the air and buries itself in her back.  That’s when her tattoo guardian, a heron, rises up to strike—and since it did not see who cast the knife, it begins attacking the crowd at random.

Occult Bestiary 54

Stats for the tattoo guardian don’t seem to be online yet, but you can always find them here.