Monday, November 23, 2015


(Image by Rogier van de Beek comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Balisses, also known as confessor angels, are absolutely striking: bodies wreathed in darkness, but with piercing yellow eyes and glorious wings.  Having known darkness in their own lives and deeds—and subsequently repented and reformed—they now lead others to the light through gentle guidance and open ears.

That said, don’t lay your hands on one—“[T[hey will brook no physical attacks,” says Bestiary 5.  Which means they’ll happily holy smite you and slap a mark of justice on you to remind you to be more polite in future.

Finally, keep in mind that regularly shouldering the sins of others can be a burden too great for even an angel.  Balisses may be crafted from the souls of the redeemed, but they can always fall again…

There are the laws of the gods, and then there are the laws of men…which can lead a balisse into hot water. The ruthless Ament Elfslayer has resurfaced, and a party of adventurers is deputized to retrieve him—dead or alive.  But Ament has recently sought to atone for his past under the careful stewardship of a confessor angel.  The balisse fears that if Ament is executed now his soul will still be too stained to go to the Celestial Realms.  So he brashly decides to take up arms against the adventures, even if they are of good hearts.

A reformation is sweeping the church of Eo, and among its tenets is the stricture never to treat with an otherworldly creature—even an angel.  Naturally, that sets the reformers directly against the primarch, who is well known for making his confession to none other than a balisse.  The reformation has already turned bloody, and if adventurers join the side of the Reborn Men, it is only a matter of time before they face off against the primarch and his heavenly guide.

Jagu was saved from a life of sin by a saint who showed him the error of his cruel words and deeds.  His lover who lured him into darkness, Beatrix, experienced no such epiphany and died trying to assassinate the saint.  In penance for both his and her crimes, Jagu led a life of service and after death was incarnated as a balisse.  He remembered little of his mortal life until Beatrix reappeared as Bealitrix, a succubus.  Too long in her company and Jagu fell in love and back into darkness again.  Now a corrupt angel on the path to demonhood (with special abilities such as detect good instead of evil, inflict serious wounds, etc.), Jagu does Bealitrix’s bidding in all things.

Chronicle of the Righteous 59 & Bestiary 5 22

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Baku Dreamweaver

Baku dreamweavers are the specialists of the baku race—more powerful than their generic baku kin, but consuming only the dreams of the imaginative, the creative, and the psychic.  They are still deadly foes of night hags and other oneiric predators, making them essentially benevolent protectors of mortal dreamers.

You might even say dreamweavers can get you through thenight…?

(I…I don’t know what just came over me.  I am so, so sorry.)


Where baku dreamweavers truly shine is their ability to facilitate travel through and even shape the Dimension of Dreams, courtesy of abilities like dream voyage, dream whispers, dream shepherd, and so on.  Nothing says you’re about to embark on an extraordinary voyage like embarking on a dreamship with a levitating tapir as your captain…

Adventurers continually wake up fatigued and mentally foggy.  Soon they realize their memories have grown faulty as well.  A dreamthief hag has the soul of baku dreamweaver’s mate held hostage in her dreamstone.  The hag has directed the dreamweaver to torment the adventurers so that she remains free to pursue other plans unopposed.

To gain safe passage through a fey lord’s domain, adventurers agree to bring him “the ram from the Hill of Dream Poppies.”  The “ram” is actually a baku dreamweaver, and the adventurers will have to sleep on the hillside to even spot the creature, let alone capture it.  Of course, sleeping in Faerie carries its own risks…  Even if the adventurers capture the baku, they wake in thorn manacles, bound hand and foot by the fey lord who has no scruples about breaking his bargain.

The dead don’t dream—especially not in Hell.  But mortal prisoners do.  Not long after their friend is stolen away by devils, adventurers have an encounter with a baku dreamweaver.  The magical beast saw the adventurers in their friend’s dreams and wished to see them (and possibly taste their dreams) for himself.  The baku’s ability to travel so fluidly through the Dimension of Dreams sparks plans for one of the most daring jailbreaks on two planes.

Occult Bestiary 10

<nerd voice> Um, excuse me, Paizo, but Gary Wright clearly indicates that dreamweavers fly through the Astral Plane, not the Dimension of Dreams, despite their name.  Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.” </nerd voice>

Monday, November 16, 2015



Honestly, I was expecting I would have gotten deeper into the Occult Bestiary’s alphabet by now, but my life has not been kind to blogging the last month or so.  That’s fine though—B isn’t a terrible place to start in any case.  (You astral dragon fans are going to be peeved though.)

The bagiennik comes from Slavic mythology.  Pathfinder has softened them from demons to fey, but kept most of the essential features, including caustic snot with the potential to heal even more than it harms.  Surprisingly powerful for such small (or rather, Small) fey, bagienniks are likely much sought after as healers by communities too poor or remote for powerful clerics to visit…even if that means putting up with their large (and probably voracious and troublesome) extended families.

Wikipedia also says that bagienniks are kin to banniks, or bathhouse spirits, and since we don't have stats for the latter, a bagiennik will do quite nicely for those GMs who want to do a Ukrainian version of Spirited Away

Desperate to cure his young bride of gyre pox, the jarl of Aelf Steading invited a bagiennik and his family to winter in his hold.  The salamander-like fey moved right in, and it turned out his family was much larger than advertised.  That, combined with the bagienniks’ propensity for pranks and their swampy smell, has the folk of the steading desperate for spring.  The jarl remains grateful to the fey, though, and rightly fears the chief god Wotan’s wrath should he renege on his offer of hospitality.  Thus his mission to a band of adventurers crazy enough to travel through his land in winter: Find the bagiennik family a new home...and fast.

Adventurers are racing to heal their friend’s wasting disease.  Short on options, they seek out a bagiennik rumored to lair in a local swamp.  But between them and the fey is the domain of some particularly nasty vooniths, who intend on both tormenting the adventurers and following them to get their hands on the elusive bagiennik flesh they’ve long hungered for.  Meanwhile, the adventurers’ old enemies, the sadistic Soot-Black Knights, are hot on their trails, driving their hunting slaves before them on long leashes of iron chain.

A popular medicinal bath is the site of an odd guerilla war.  Bagienniks have always tended the natural springs and aided the local healers, to the delight of those patients who made pilgrimages there.  Recently though, priests of the Red Lord have restored and reconsecrated an old monastery in the area.  While their clerics have not pushed the local healers out, they have assumed de facto ownership of the baths, up to and including hanging the Red Lord’s symbol—offending the nature-revering fey.  Pranks and vandalism were the fey’s response, but that only enraged the dour priests of order, and last week blood was spilled for the first time.  Now the claws (and the nasal spray) have come out, and any adventurers who visit the baths must pick a side.

Bestiary 5 40

So far the stats for Bestiary 5 monsters aren’t up yet, so you’ll have to rely on the book itself for the full run-down.

I haven’t followed the Midgard setting very closely (I haven’t even read the two gazetteers I do own), but apparently there’s a Midgard version of the bagiennik as well.

The first time I saw the Aethera Campaign Setting Kickstarter, my spirits fell a little because it veers dangerously close to some ideas I’ve been wanting to work on.  So I was a just wee bit bummed that other talented people have launched themselves into that space first.

But now my spirits are falling because I’m worried this project won’t get funded.  Despite even a glowing preview on io9, it's been stuck about halfway to its goal, and there are only six days left.

Only SIX days.  To make a SPACE setting for Pathfinder a reality.  That’s just NUTS.

I want to see this live, so I just plopped down a chunk of change at the Marshal level.  Maybe you can do likewise, at whatever level you can afford?  (Also, Todd Stewart, an early friend of this blog, is involved.)  I pretty much never, ever back a Kickstarter—let alone push one—but I’m backing this one, and it would be cool if you guys did too.

Monday, November 9, 2015


With their spindly limbs, arms instead of legs (giving them the predatory slink of a jungle cat or mandrill), and distinctive flaps of skin(?) over their faces, avataranas look like things out of a video game—and guess what, it’s a horror title.  (And since you guys know that world a lot better than me, you’ll have to tell me which one.)

Lots of rakshasas want to manipulate mortals, but avataranas skip the details and just flat-out possess them, actually melting into their bodies.  The Occult Bestiary details their usual M.O. after that point:

[T]hey patiently work their way up social ladders, finding more impressive and influential individuals to possess […] but their viciousness increasingly shows. Only when others turn against their victims do avataranas release their control, leaving their prey to deal with the ramifications of the rakshasa’s acts.”

So first the issue is detecting the rakshasa, then the issue is successfully confronting the outsider without killing the host, and ideally doing so in a public setting so that the host’s innocence in the rakshasa’s vile doings can be confirmed.  And it’s that last part that’s the tricky bit.  Reputations don’t respond to Heal checks, and in a game world without mass media, Diplomacy and Profession (Barrister) checks will only get you so far…particularly against a monster who’s probably been using mental magic left and right for weeks, if not months or years, on the very people the PCs are trying to win over.  Good luck!

Adventurers are being fêted by vanaras after services to one of the ape-men’s gurus, only to be framed for the murder of an occultist by the end of the banquet.  They are kept on the run and sleepless throughout the vanara temple complex, with friends becoming enemies the second the rakshasa takes possession of them.

The Choker King is neither a choker nor a doppelganger.  He is an avatarana…and some of the chokers even whisper that he shaped them in his own image.  (The doppelgangers are too proud to whisper such things, but privately some believe it.)  The chokers say you never know when the king will chose to ride one of them (which also means that in game terms he is Advanced enough to possess aberrations as well as humanoids).  Certain doppelgangers have pieced together there is a pattern to his killings, and quake with the knowledge that all their race’s pitiful schemes and murders might be simply a smokescreen to hide his real ends.  The chokers simply know that if you displease the Choker King, he’ll likely torture and murder your whole clutch out of hand…and if you think the rack or crucifixion are awful, you really haven’t seen them until you’ve seen them inflicted upon creatures whose limbs stretch more than twice their own height…

In a sudden reversal of policy, the head of the British Museum declares all Egyptian artifacts to be pagan works that corrupt the national spirit, and demands they be smashed.  The head Egyptologist is horrified and demands a party of adventurers investigate.  (And since they are owed a substantial bounty for recovering many of these artifacts from under the nose of Napoleon’s armies, the adventurers have a vested interest in doing so.)  The British Museum head is actually under the possession of an avatarana who does not wish Britain to unlock the secrets of the artifacts, as they could open the door to occult powers with the potential to rival his own.  Of course, if the adventurers successfully drive out the rakshasa, they may have traded one evil for another, because the Egyptology department has been thoroughly infiltrated by worshippers of the Great Old Ones—cultists who very much want to see those artifacts not only preserved and catalogued, but also put to use.

Occult Bestiary 49

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Animus Shade

When we covered the alter ego, we talked about how one of the bizarre but neat things about the Occult Adventures/Bestiary rules sets (as well as 3.5’s psionic rules) is how they bring to life psychological terms we take for granted as actual monsters.  (Or to put it another way, Pathfinder has a way of turning psychological constructs into…well, constructs.) 

And with the animus shade, we have yet another example.  To the Romans, the animus was the soul; Jung borrowed the term to round out his theories of the male and female aspects inside every person; and then Pathfinder mashed the two notions together to create the animus shade.  According to the Occult Bestiary, there are warring aspects inside every soul—“primitive survival urges and base wants opposing intellectual reason and high-minded goals.”  Sometimes one of these aspects gets locked away, only to be freed during a psychically injurious death.  The resulting creature is, of course, undead—and so we circle back to the Romans’ notion of the animus as a soul, only this time with a stat block and a lot of murder on its mind.  Neat!

(If we were going to be really pompous and Saussurean about it we would talk about the word animus being a signifier upon which more and more meaning has accreted, changing that which it signifies, but I don’t see anyone that pompous around here, do you?)

The key thing to remember about animus shades (besides they fact that they are invariably violent—like most undead, these are not the result of peaceful deaths, and it shows) is that they are the formerly dominated and repressed aspects of the victim’s subconscious.  So unlike, say, ghosts, who want their former life’s purpose fulfilled or acknowledged in some way, animus shades want the exact opposite.  Animus shades was to tear that former life apart (and anyone who reminds them of that life in the bargain).  Many a would-be exorcist has attempted to lay to rest an animus shade as if it were a ghost, only to drive the creature to new heights of rage instead.

An animus shade runs loose in the baths at Quivis.  Technically it is not an animus shade but rather an anima shade—the female aspect of diplomat Tarkus Morne.  Captured by a fear eater who repeatedly tormented Morne so that it might harvest psychedelic mushrooms from his body, Morne died a terrified wreck.  A vain and haughty man, his suppressed female self has manifested as a hideous medusa, the embodiment of all Morne’s doubts and fears in life.  The corpulent, caterpillar-like fear eater still lurks in the steamy caverns beneath the baths, and will no doubt capture another victim very soon.

Asuras and divs love creating the conditions that birth animus shades, delighting that the shade will actually work to despoil and ruin all that the victim loved in its mortal life.  Their lairs often feature carefully stoppered jars, bottles, lamps, or other vessels (with ghost salt nearly always being an ingredient in the crafting) that each hold an animus shade trapped inside.  Enraged from their long captivity, these shades will always attack, particularly if the one who disturbed them calls to mind the shades’ former lives.

A psychically injurious death is a necessary ingredient for the creation of an animus shade, or so the theory goes…but particularly vile rites and surgeries can sometimes carve out the suppressed subconscious aspects without killing the patient.  A very small number of derros, kytons, and rakshasas know the technique, which they use in their respective pursuits of science, transcendence, and dominance.  The patients who survive the process are nearly always subtly wrong in some way, and many of them make excellent and utterly remorseless assassins and slayers.  Meanwhile, the leftovers from their psychiectomies linger on as animus shades on the Ethereal Plane near where the incision was made.  Truly depraved humans know these tricks too…and not all of them are the chakra butchers of the Assassin Mountains either.  Berserker lodges use ritual combat, scarring, and nearly lethal drugs to drive weakness out of their bodies, and throughout the Northlands the animus shades of these cast-off aspects haunt the misty places between the worlds.

Occult Bestiary 6–7

Slowly getting back on schedule.  Keep the faith and please keep reblogging!  It totally makes my day.

For those of you not following along at home, the monster blogging is delayed.  Because Canada.  That’s all I can say.  Canada. You know how in the Hitchhiker books the word “Belgium” (my homeland, theoretically) is a swear word?  This week I have been completely Canada-ing Canada-ed.

But I did do a radio show for you!  New Foxing, new Grimes, classic Eels, and 20 years of Pulp’s Different Class.   Bear with the awkward intro—there’s some volume issues during the Josh Ritter track that are totally my bad—and enjoy!

(The link is good till Monday, 11/9, at midnight and you can always right-click/Save As if you want to keep it for longer.)