Monday, April 11, 2016

Dark Empath

“As above, so below,” goes the off-referenced line from the Emerald Tablet.  (And holy crap I did not realize what a Wiki wormhole I was about to enter when I looked up the origin of that quote.  Appropriate, though, given that we’re looking at an occult monster.)  If your PCs have occult powers, it makes sense that your subterranean villains should too.  Thus dark empaths are the dark folk version of humanity’s (or halfling-ity’s) mentalists and mind readers.

Then again, dark empaths may work even better if your player characters don’t have access to psychic magic or occult power.  When PCs are used to slinging spells and chanting prayers, a creature that devours their emotions and spits their cause fear spells back at them as rage might give them pause.

(And, as we’ve talked about before, if you really want to highlight the difference between the sunlit and sunless worlds, making the magic different is one easy way to do so.  For instance, if the surface world is heavy with clerical magic and wizards’ spellbooks, make the depths full of sorcery, psychic magic, and occult rituals, emphasizing that beneath the earth the rules are different and the gods of good answer faintly…if at all.)

For all their mental powers, dark empaths aren’t masterminds.  In thrall to their own emotions and the emotions of others, they are easily manipulated by the dark callers and owbs that rule dark folk society.

Adventurers lead a sage (who happens to be an enchanter) and his necromancer assistant down into the bowels of the earth.  The sage isn’t supposed to join in combat, but when his assistant leaps to his defense with a wand of cause fear, he gets caught in the infectious psychic backlash.

Turbans and voluminous wrappings are traditional in the Kyaf region, allowing dark folk to mingle easily with humanity at night despite the day’s punishing sun.  This intrusion does not always go unnoticed—many Kyafar whisper of “the small dark ones” or “the night singers.”  But it is the repressive theocracy of Tomar’sh where the dark folk truly rule the night.  There dark empath assassins twist the minds of their targets, spreading paranoia until their panicked victims provoke the religious guard into putting them down without the dark empaths drawing a single blade.

Dark empaths are made to stay on the outskirts of dark folk settlements…for good reason.  But once a year—Unraveling Day—they are allowed to parade through dark folk towns, causing all the havoc they wish.  Dark folk know to prepare for such days…but members of other cultures don’t.  Adventurers are pursuing a bounty that has gone to ground in a mixed duergar and lizardfolk city that has recently seen an influx of dark folk, and they are caught in the middle of the chaos when the dark empaths hold their first Unraveling Day amid the unsuspecting crowds.

Occult Bestiary 18

I spent much of grad school playing Vampire since that was my friends’ beloved system, and nothing terrified us players more than encountering new magical disciplines.  Out-of-game it was because Vampire’s magic systems tended to be horribly broken for anyone who had the slightest bit of forethought and preparation time; in-game it was because first encounters with magic you hadn’t planned for tended to be near-lethal almost 100% of the time. 

Over the weekend filbypott called me out for describing thanatotic titans as “strictly fantastic creations” rather than being inspired by the Greek myths.  I probably shouldn’t have used “strictly” and I totally see his point—they did rise against the gods, they were imprisoned, they do have the Godslayer (Su) ability.  But they still feel loosely inspired by the myths for me, rather than “ripped from the headlines” like the hekatonkheires. Part of it is the art choice, I think—that full-plate-suited warrior just doesn’t say “primitive forebear of the gods” to me.  (Thanks for the eyes, though, Filby!)

I have an even worse excuse for not mentioning the fomorian titan: I flat-out forgot about it!  …Buuutttttt that’s not 100% my fault, I swear!  As I’ve mentioned before the fomorian was left out of the online Pathfinder Reference Document index, so it didn’t show up when I went to research previous titan incarnations.  D’oh!

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