Sunday, June 11, 2017


(Illustration by Will O’Brien comes from the artist’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

The moldwretch’s appeal for GMs is largely of a problem-solving nature.  It fills a niche when you need a higher-level (CR 7) fungus creature.  It’s a Small creature that nevertheless is pretty powerful (again, CR 7, and 10 Hit Dice besides).  It's got the toughness of the plant type while moving and thinking (Int 14) like a humanoid.  And because it comes in three moldy flavors (or more, if you’re using supplements like Darklands Revisited or some homebrew tinkering), you can keep players on their toes for at least a couple of encounters.

But what a moldwretch is exactly is still up to you.  A prehistoric vegepygmy?  The spawn of some long-ago infection that merged ape and fungus?  A result of drow fleshwarping?  There’s nothing that even says they have to look like the illustration in Bestiary 6—they simply need to have at least two arms, a tentacle, and an orifice for speaking—so they might appear as fungal spiders, tripod-like mushrooms, moldy elder things, or even more outlandish shapes.

A vegepygmy infestation that adventurers had previously cleared out returns again, as if guided by a more intelligent hand.  If they go back to attack the nest a second time, they find passages leading to a different cave system that includes gardens of musical mushrooms, a rot grub-covered dwarf crypt, and murderous moldwretch masterminds still wearing the skulls of the dwarves whose graves they desecrated.

Moldwretches have a complicated caste system devoted to the molds they tend.  A moldwretch may be a gardener, an ascetic, a warrior, a priest, a wanderer, or one of several other roles, depending on the kind of mold it has bonded with.  A given moldwretch will speak of its past roles as if they were performed by another being entirely, even if it has changed several times in a year.

Adventurers exploring a cave system come across a chamber covered in pebbles arranged in geometric shapes.  At first the shapes appear merely decorative, but studying the negative space reveals a message: the Undercommon word for “Help” written over and over.  A growth of moldwretches have become the unwilling thralls of a fungus queen, and they use every spare moment they have to add still more pebbles to their message.  They don’t dare be more direct, as they fear they will either rouse the fungus queen’s attention or accidentally infect their would-be saviors.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 191

And for my Blogger readers, now it’s time for…

Audio News #1:
I like you so much better when you’re naked, and 31 other truths you will learn from Tuesday night’s radio show.  

Stream/download all the summer fun now through tomorrow (Monday, 06/12/17) at midnight.

Audio News #2:
I’m crazy-honored to have been a guest on the Laughfinder podcast this week, wherein I play Pathfinder with actual comedians and Baltimore luminaries of all kinds.

Thrill to the adventures of Aaron Henkin, Bryan Preston, Dorian Gray, Jim Meyer, Tommy Sinbazo, and me!  Red Point tourism (and Red Point’s mohrg population) will never be the same.

Edit: I forgot to mention how unbelievably awesome playing with an audiomancer (i.e. a sound-effects guy) is.  Total game changer, literally.

Monday, June 5, 2017


(Illustration by Mike Corriero comes from the PathfinderWiki and is © Paizo Publishing.)

The mokele-mbembe is Pathfinder’s version of the mokèlé-mbèmbé, a cryptic from Africa’s Congo region.

Q: Did you make that pedantic distinction solely as an excuse to type a word with four accent marks going in two directions?

A: Yes.  Duh.

The mokele-mbembe isn’t going to blow anyone away stats-wise—it’s simply an animal, not even a magical beast, though it can bull-rush like a champ and the sonic boom of its Whip Tail (Ex) attack is pretty neat.  But it still pleases me for a number of reasons.  It widens our portfolio of African-inspired monsters.  It’s a jungle animal that’s also easy to drop into Lost World or alien settings.  It’s a cryptid that, like the Loch Ness monster, teases the hope that some dinosaurs still survive today (and likewise serves as a good excuse to stick a dinosaur into a campaign where one would usually be verboten).  And though most reports of the mokele-mbembe track (a little too) neatly with the early 20th century’s fascination with dinosaurs, the first mention of one by a European dates back to 1776…and who doesn't want to imagine Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson chatting away about the mokele-mbembe over a draft of a certain declaration?

Most importantly, it’s a monster that turns the players’ out-of-game knowledge against them.  The mokele-mbembe’s description reads like a standard sauropod.  (Even the osteoderms gesture toward saltasaurus or a similar titanosaur).  And while a medieval peasant running across a sauropod would likely be awestruck, even terrified, a player seeing a brontosaurus toy being used as a mini on the gaming table is likely going to write off the beast as an herbivore, and have his PC respond accordingly…right up until the minute that “bronto” makes a bite attack.  And if catching PCs flat-footed because their players made out-of-game assumptions isn’t pure GM gold, I don’t know what is.

Adventurers looking to learn a rare combat style (in game terms, a feat, rogue talent, hunter’s trick, or similar mechanic) make contact with the Thunderwhip Lodge, a secret society of jungle warriors with a great serpent as a totem animal.  After a welcoming dinner and a ritual sharing of a fermented drink, the adventurers wake to find themselves bound, gagged, and recovering from the effects of a strong drug.  The Thunderwhip Lodge members are not interested in sharing their secrets, but are very interested in sacrificing the adventures to their totem: a mokele-mbembe.  Assuming the adventurers survive their encounter with the predatory dinosaur, they can still learn the combat style by facing three or more Thunderwhip men in combat.

Adventurers hunting the rumored lair of a black dragon come across two of the dragon’s guardians: a domesticated (at least by dragon standards) pair of mokele-mbembes.  If the adventurers slay the creatures, they may find the dinosaurs’ eggs, which could fetch a high price.  They may also discover that the black dragon is dead, and recent sightings of her are the work of her half-dragon daughter.  She claims to be protecting the area from a green dragon who is even worse…

Gods above, it’s an escort mission.  Worse yet, it’s an escort mission in the fetid, stinking jungle.  But a band of not-so-merry adventurers owe One-Eyed Pike a favor, so they agree to take his priest—sweet pixie night sweats, not even a priest, but a godsbedamned shaman—up Triumph Falls to the Lakelands, so that the shaman may read the portents in the titanic battles between the mokele-mbembes and hippopotami there.  Of course, that means surviving encounters with the aforementioned mokele-mbembes, hippopotami, and feral wyverns to boot.  But when the shaman transforms before their eyes into a phoenix, and marks each of the adventurers with a magical tattoo of a flame over his or her right eye, it’s clear this was no simple escort mission after all.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #39 84–85, Mystery Monsters Revisited 22–27 & Pathfinder Bestiary 6 190

Note that in addition to its two-page description in Pathfinder Adventure Path #39: City of Seven Spears, Anthony Pryor gave the mokele-mbembe a full write-up in Mystery Monsters Revisited.

So in the past two weeks—crap, has it been almost three weeks now?—the Pathfinder community has experienced two seriously big events: the departure of Editor-in-Chief @wesschneider and PaizoCon 2017.  Both deserve more attention that I can give them today, so take this as a placeholder indicating that yes, I have thoughts and feelings and even feelz, but today is not the day.

Looking for the mockingfey?  It’s way back here.

I was a hair late for last week’s radio show, and (as is typical after a week off, especially at the start of a new semester) I was clunky and lame at the start.  But we gave away some Feist tickets, celebrated the music of Chris Cornell/Soundgarden and Gregg Allman/the Allman Brothers band, and played some new tunes besides.  Grab it now because it vanishes at midnight tonight (Monday, 06/05/17, U.S. Eastern).

I’m including the image for the Feist show I was giving away tickets for because it’s pretty.