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.

1 comment:

  1. It was cool to finally meet you at PaizoCon, albeit for just a brief hello when you caught me at dinner. :)