Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Pathfinder went to mythology’s way-back bench to find the taniniver—but the results were worth it.  Based on Lilith’s steed Tanin'iver from Kabbalistic teachings, this one-off dragon species is amazing; Bestiary 4 calls the wyrm a “legless, winged, white-eyed dragon […] covered in patches of diseased flesh, squirming with maggots and oozing pus.”  It’s an entire dragon species riddled with disease, constantly rotting away yet doomed to live in agonized, imperfect health for centuries.  For villain fodder, how cool is that?

So yeah, if you’ve got your high-level PCs fighting undead, daemons, or other forces of evil and decay, now you've got a hell of a curveball to throw at them.  And the presence of a taniniver practically begs you to explore other deep cuts of evil: divs, azi, asuras, and worse.  Every taniniver in existence is looking for surcease from pain for himself and a cure for his race—and when you are looking forward to centuries of agony, you will do almost anything and ally with almost anyone to get the job done.

A taniniver has been able to find relief from his condition by constantly bathing himself in magical energies.  He harvests these energies by tapping into ley lines, and in fact has converted an entire pharaonic pyramid to this effort.  (The fact that this caused the pyramid’s dead inhabitants to rise as undead is a triviality to the dragon.)  But the hijacked magical apparatus is delicate, requiring the pyramid to remain sealed.  When adventurers breach the pyramid’s defenses, they face not only the usual mummies and death traps but also an outraged, maggot-covered dragon.

To find an artifact locked away in a magical deck, adventurers must face challenges represented by the major arcana pictured on the cards.  Defeating the Blind Serpent means crossing into the fey realms to fight the Taniniver, a jabberwock-like creature blessed with eternal life but not eternal youth or health.  The Taniniver, meanwhile, is tired of his imprisonment in the demiplane, and he has allowed daemons to begin construction on a bridge to their dark homeland.  Theoretically, the very deck of cards the adventurers are holding could become a staging ground for the Apocalypse.

On an alternate Earth where magic still thrives and the Second Temple never fell, the Davidic and Ottoman Empires are wary partners against the political machinations of the Roman Magisterium.  When a magical plague strikes Jerusalem, everyone suspects the Pope’s magisters.  Then the Holy See, too, begins reporting illnesses, sending lantern archons and ironbound quickling servants from Eire to Timbuktu begging its priests and paladins to return home to fight the pestilence.  The real culprit is a descendant of one of the Jews’ most ancient enemies: a taniniver.  The diseased dragon  has received the promise of Ahriman that the Lord of All Divs will cure the taniniver race once no human, half-elven, or sylph in King David’s line is left alive.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 258

One of the nice surprises of this summer is that I’ve gotten to hang out with and correspond with D. Watkins.  Yeah, that D. Watkins and that D. Watkins.  I was supposed to go to his book launch tonight…and naturally that meant that two minutes into his introduction I got called away.  Sigh.  Still, if you’re at all interested in current, up-to-the-minute thoughts on race, poverty, the police, and growing up in Baltimore, look for his new book, The Beast Side.  Also check out his cover story interview in this week’s City Paper.  (You might remember the interviewer as well; it’s my friend Brandon who featured in this photo during the Uprising.)

Here’s last night’s radio show!  This week I played September songs and gave some love to the Push Kings’ unfairly maligned Feel No FadeStream or download it here.

(Link good till Monday, 9/14, at midnight.  If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy it from your desktop.)


  1. This is a cool monster. Your write-up gave me the idea, couldn't you do a tragic backstory pretty easily with a taniniver? Nothing says that they were born sickly. Maybe the dragon was once an ancient gold dragon brought low by a magical curse, who discovered to his shame that stopping the pain means more to him than any scruples he may have had.

  2. Also, I could draw a connection with spire drakes pretty easily, which also give off that magical corruption vibe. Spire drakes are always seeking out magical items, the book says; perhaps a taniniver has them searching for items to end the curse, and doesn't care overly much about the niceties. So any caravan, hedge wizard, temple of healing, etc., in a taniniver's domain can expect a visit from a pack of spire drakes. If somebody takes a whack at them, then that brave hero can expect a visit from their rotting patron next.