Monday, January 25, 2016


Say the word “cambion” to a certain generation of RPG player—1e AD&D Greyhawk fans, in particular—and they get a certain fervid gleam in their eye. 

There are a lot of reasons for this.  A) Cambions are half-breeds, and demonic ones at that, the result of a liaison between an incubus and a mortal woman.  In the post-3.0 world, half-demons/devils/celestials/dragons/fey/etc. abound.  But before templates became commonplace in 2000, half-breeds like cambions and dracolisks were rare and exciting monsters.  B) Cambions had some illustrious company.  No less than Iuz the Evil, Oerth demigod and Greyhawk’s answer to Sauron, began life as a cambion.  C) Well…there was something extra-forbidden about them.  Cambions by their very nature suggested sex, which was scandalous enough, and then 2e AD&D temporarily wiped demons off the map entirely, making cambions doubly alluring—a symbol of AD&D’s wilder days before (intentionally misinformed) moms “ruined” the hobby. 

(Cambions would return only three years later courtesy of the Outer Planes Appendix to the Monstrous Compendium, but 2e demons/tanar’ri never really found their footing again until Planescape came along and made everything planar amazing.  And then 3.0 came out and half-fiends made cambions redundant.  WotC didn’t even bother statting them up again until Expedition to the Demonweb Pits, when 3.5 was in its death throes.)

All that is a lot of nerd history, half of which I’m probably getting wrong.  The point is, when you put a cambion in your adventure, you’re not just fielding a special half-demon; you’re fielding a half-demon with some history, both in- and out-of-game.

Pathfinder’s cambion earns its singular status over other half-fiends because the mother resides in the Abyss throughout the pregnancy.  That’s plenty evil in itself—it means she’s either a prisoner of demons or their willing consort, both horrible things to contemplate—and the evil energies of the plane warp the fetus still further until it becomes a true outsider.  Cambions are also marked by their mortal parent’s sin, which is exhibited in a sinfrenzy that manifests once per day.  Even more fascinatingly, the sinfrenzy gives an added boost if the cambion has levels in the class that complements his sin.  That’s just awesome.  (In fact, I can totally see a GM never using cambions in a single adventure but still stealing the sinfrenzy list as a way to taint other monsters, NPCs, and even PCs.  (“Because of her actions in that last dungeon, your character has earned a free special ability.”  “That’s awesome!”  “…And she’s damned to the Abyss till she atones.”  “…Oh.”)

The long and the short of it is that cambions are all kinds of wrong in a demonically handsome package.  So when the Greyhawk fan in your life gets all excited at the mention of a cambion, now you can join in too.

Clavel and his Hounds are the scourge—literally—of the Andirons.  The flail-and flamberge-wielding demon keeps a cult of wrath sinspawn on leather leashes to serve as his hunting dogs, releasing them to harry escaped slaves and political dissidents.

Adventurers owe a demon a favor—and now the demon has called in his marker.  He wants his wayward sons found.  That means tracking down sloth and gluttony cambions in the fighting pits of two continents and an elemental plane.  (The demon of course intends to feed the adventurers to his boys in the end—they’re still growing after all—but that’s to be expected when you work for a demon.)

The specialist wizards of the Mightspire have never allowed mere morals or ethics to hobble their studies.  Nor are they shy about trumpeting the supremacy of their particular school of magic over all others.  But still a certain level of decorum was observed, if only to keep open spell battles from breaking out in the halls.  The cambion Marxys ignores even those basic courtesies, and he and his black-leather-wearing acolytes in the School of Admixture (see the Advanced Player’s Guide) are currently terrifying the other students and even some of the professors.  The fact that the Chair of the School of Banishment seems powerless to contain Marxys only adds to the demonic guest lecturer’s strange allure.  The other department heads don’t want to be seen moving against the cambion—who knows if his mother or patron might be watching?—but they want the problem ended…and quickly.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #76 84–85 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 75

I usually think of devils as being more concerned with the seven cardinal sins than demons, and cambions are a useful reminder to me that that’s just not so.

The original entry on cambions in Pathfinder Adventure Path #76: The Midnight Isles goes into more details about Nocticula’s interest in and fostering of these fiends.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the cambion’s female counterpart, the alu-demon, born of a succubus and a male mortal.  No official stats on that exist so far, I believe, though the Tome of Horrors Complete has a version.

Clavel is the name of an amazing mescaleria in Baltimore.  I’m sorry, Clavel.

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