Monday, January 11, 2016

Boroboroton, Kasa-Obake & Koto-Furunishi

I love monsters that suggest an entirely new way for a campaign to look and feel.  And an animate walking umbrella monster does just that.

I should probably go back and explain.

One of the things I’m adamant about—and have occasionally spent space here trying to prove—is that Pathfinder can support adventures that don't feel like the default Pathfinder (or D&D or dungeon crawls or Tolkien or what we’ll call “trilogy fantasy” in general).  I believe Pathfinder can support the open-ended, anything-might-happen nature of European fairy tales and the symbol-rich spirit worlds of Anansi and Raven.  I believe it can handle low-magic settings inspired by Westeros, the pulp space of Barsoom, and the fantasy space of “Spelljammer: Shadow of the Spider Moon.”  I especially believe it can handle private school fantasies inspired by Hogwarts and Glantri, quotidian magical workplaces recalling Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, and cruel magisteria and wild frontiers that echo His Dark Materials.

Anyway, while I’ve skimmed Bestiary 5, I haven’t read it cover to cover yet.  So I was delighted to turn to the “Tsukumogami” entry and discover this wonderful kami template.  Quick, go look at the illustration of the kasa-obake, an animate umbrella with a single eye, a single foot, and slavering jaws.  The koto-furunishi is an animate  zither(!).  (I repeat: !  Tell me the last time you considered having a zither in your game, let alone one with immunity to polymorph.)  And the boroboroton is an animate sleeping mat or futon (college me really appreciates this one).  Aren't we done with vampires and invisible stalkers?  Next time your PCs find the corpse of someone who died in his sleep, can’t it please be from a murderous sleeping roll, as if Carpet from Disney’s Aladdin went horribly, horribly wrong?

All these creatures are objects that reached their 100th birthday and gained a spirit, becoming (or uniting with, per Pathfinder cosmology) a kami and becoming animate in the process.  Not only is this a neat move statistically—a template on top of a template on top of an object—but, to go back to my original point, it speaks to a fundamentally different kind of Pathfinder game. 

I was not concerned about whether my bureau had a spirit when my fighter helped Aleena face Bargle back in D&D’s Mentzer days.  I did not consider the age of my chamber pot the first night my future eldritch knight booked a room in Nirmathas.  But thanks to these monsters…now I will. 

Somewhere in my future there is now a campaign where my PCs’ first adventure is finding a home for a newly awakened koto-furunishi, where along the way we meet a strange kasa-obake, where a spiritualist (from Occult Adventures) introduces us to the world of channeling the phantoms of the dead, and by the end of our journey one of the PCs has been admitted to a priory to be schooled in the holy art of transmutation.  That’s not a Pathfinder campaign I’ve ever been a part of or even dreamed of until tonight.  But with a copy of B5 and OA, my Harry Potter books, and my Miyazaki and Cadfael DVDs, I can picture it now.

Adventures are tasked with finding a hidden maestro—actually a koto-furunishi that leads a band of tsukumogami.  Their quest is complicated by the fact that the magical instruments refuse to play for strangers, a witch craves the zither for herself, and superstitious goblins (sometimes led by goblin oni; treat as fiendish goblins) attempt to smash any musical instruments they find to drive the kami away.

Not only has a kasa-obake turned to evil, its diet—wizard’s familiars, faerie dragons, and children with sticky fingers—is even worse.  Well on its way to becoming an oni, the umbrella spirit must be stopped…though adventurers who pick the right rainy night to request its assistance might be able to return the 100-year-old spirit to the light.

A boroboroton rejoiced when the mausoleum that imprisoned it was finally opened…only to find itself tossed aside by the archaeologists who opened the tomb in favor of more important relics.  A sacred sha has found the inconsolable mattress spirit and spent several nights whispering exhortations of smothering murder into the kami’s straw-filled head.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 252–253

My belief in the elasticity of d20 in general and Pathfinder in particular is only exacerbated when I go to my favorite game store and see all the indie and old-school Renaissance titles out there, each with their own new rules system to learn.  I totally get the appeal of streamlined systems, and I appreciate that good mechanics can reinforce flavor in certain genres, especially romance or humor.  That said, I can't tell you the number of time I’ve picked up a book and waded through pages and pages of rules I’ve seen before (“Your Ride skill determines how well you ride a horse”—well, duh) to get to the new ideas and the world, when some bolted-on mechanics and a new core class or two would have done just as well.  It’s one of the reasons I’m liking (though I’ve only just cracked it) A Red & Pleasant Land.  While most of my exposures to Legends of the Flame Princess products have turned me off, I appreciate that AR&PL’s author didn’t write Alice: The RPG; instead he just picked the LotFP system to work with and moved on to the good stuff fast.

An alternate creation myth for boroborotons locates them in the swamps of Sqornshellous Zeta.  They are all named Zem.

1 comment:

  1. LAMENTATIONS. LAMENTATIONS of the Flame Princess. I was typing this too late last night and brain-farted.