Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Death Coach

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

Emily Dickinson introduces today’s monster, but really it’s Ireland and the UK that give us most of our tales about the Cóiste Bodhar, or death coach—a grim, silent harbinger of inevitable doom.

We actually already have one dark coach in the game—the Coach of the Silent, summoned by powerful dullahans.   The death coach is the same CR and has roughly the same Hit Dice, but differs slightly in how it summons souls to their inevitable fate.

From a worldbuilding perspective, the death coach is also great because it’s one of those very rare high-CR creatures you can introduce to PCs as early as first level.  In the right campaign (especially one of those Gothic horror campaigns all the kids are talking about) the death coach might rarely but regularly appear in the PCs’ home town, gathering up select victims.  This could simply be used for atmosphere—you know you’re in a spooky game when an undead coach of shadows periodically comes to collect your friends and neighbors—or it could be an important plot point—solving the mystery of the coach’s origin, its method of choosing victims, or even stopping it entirely might become the focus of the campaign.  But because the death coach has its own agenda, you can show it to PCs early without sparking a fight—after all, it’s not after them.  And even if they do try to attack it, the coach’s aura of doom and quickened fear abilities are likely enough to send them running.  The players will get the message quickly—their PCs aren't ready…yet. 

And when they do finally defeat the death coach, they’ll feel as if they've just defeated Death itself.  (That’s when you drop a grim reaper on them.)

Jamisen Shaz is fated to die today.  His only hope is if he can outrun the death coach that has chased him the past two nights running.  He begs some childhood friends, now famous adventurers with flying steeds, to take him east toward the rising sun in hope of seeing a third sunrise and breaking the curse.

Not all carriages are alike.  In the Kingdom of Burning Jade, a black mammoth made of shadow collects souls into the howdah on its back.  Sometimes the mammoth is accompanied by a mahout, a mournful agathion weeping blood who seems as much a prisoner as the lost souls aboard the howdah.

Adventurers have survived the burning of the barricades, escaped the guillotine, and looted the corrupt demagogue’s treasury.  Now they go to face the tyrant himself…just in time to see him hail a death coach and willingly allow it to collect his soul.  His shade even winks mockingly at them from the window as the coach pulls away.  Clearly he has a contingency plan—some final wish or miracle perhaps—but if the adventurers can slay the coach, maybe they can stop him from putting it into motion.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 67

For my Blogger readers (and any Tumblr readers who missed my reblog): A lot of you have written in to ask why I don’t do any Tome of Horrors monsters. 

My usual answer is to curl up into the fetal position and whimper about time and my disappearing youth and good looks and how at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot, etc., etc.

The good news is wanderingmoonsword is totally crazy has taken up that gauntlet!  Check out his adventure seeds here.

Also, I’m not saying that one day I won't flip through Tome of Horrors and call out some of my favorites.  I actually think it would be fun.  But it will probably be in more of a book review format or just “Check out this cool monster” than a standard Daily Bestiary entry.  Ditto for Sword & Sorcery’s Creature Collection—I’d actually love to do a “Books of Magic” review for those books like I did for Forgotten Realm Adventures or D&D’s Creature Catalogue. I just need time in my schedule, and life’s not supporting that right now…but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.

(That said, if that’s something you want to see, let me know in comments/messages/reblogs.  And if one of you has a Creature Collection III gathering dust on your shelf and wants to donate it to the cause, please remember your humble blog writer.)

Last night’s radio show involved some classic shoegaze, a tad bit of emo, and a set of pro-union tunes for some friends.  (Which in the last 24 hours is all the more appropriate now that my cousin is on strike with the Verizon workers.)  Stream/download and enjoy!  (If you have any trouble with the stream—for some reason this week I’m getting really awful glitchy sounds—use the Save As command to snag it as an mp3.  It’ll play fine from your desktop.  Link good till Monday, 4/18, at midnight.)

1 comment:

  1. A Japanese variant of this is the Oboroguruma (朧車, or mist/phantom coach). This is a sort of material yokai (manifested out of an old and disused item, in this case an old wagon or parade palanquin) that has turned against the people who abandoned it, and now seeks to carry them somewhere they really don't want to go...

    Japanese video games have had a lot of fun with this one over the years. I know in the MegaTen series they've been reinterpreted as ghostly taxi cabs, complete with the skeleton in the driver's seat (for appearances, since the car drives itself). For that matter, King's novel Christine could work here.