Sunday, December 31, 2017


(Illustration by David Alvarez comes from CGR and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Wikipedia claims, “Olethros translates roughly in ancient Greek to ‘destruction,’ but often with a positive connotation, as in the destruction required for and preceding renewal.”  Which makes sense for the Greek personification of havoc (and a daughter of Eris in the bargain)…but it works even better for this Pathfinder monster, a powerful psychopomp associated with souls whose fates hang in the balance.

Olethroses are powerful agents of death, helping to preserve the proper course of fate (at least as they, the psychopomp ushers, and their goddess deem it).  This of course means they may come into conflict with adventurers, as PCs are notorious for wishing to bend fate to their own desires.  On the other hand, olethroses are rivals or enemies of a number of other fate-oriented outsiders and entities, including norns, lipika aeons, and sahkils, which may cause them to ally them with PCs. (Bestiary 6 actually goes into great detail about this, as well as their relations with their psychopomp kin).  Powerful olethroses can even become mothers (a rarity among psychopomps—and most outsiders, for that matter) when old fates fork and new fates reveal themselves, immaculately conceiving new olethroses to study the branching phenomena of destiny.

An olethros has been guiding the fate of a single family for generations, subtly ensuring that every birth, marriage, death, and important event falls in its course.  But when adventurers save the family from a fiery holocaust (courtesy of norn’s quiet influence), they upend a century of planning and earn the enmity of the powerful psychopomp.

The pit fiend Idvidicar the Sculptor has been pierced by no less than six arrows from an olethros's silkbow.  He refuses to remove the shafts, wearing them as badges to signify that no one but he is the author of his fate—or the fates of those under his control.  The olethros who shot Invidicar wants to retrieve the shafts, believing their long exposure to the pit fiend’s foul essence may have granted the arrows unique properties,

An olethros conceived a child, presumably according to some looming twist of fate.  Whatever the event was, though, it has failed to come to pass so far…leaving the gravid olethros in a state of horrible pregnant limbo, in terrible pain that is as much spiritual as it is physical.  As the months have stretched into years, the olethros has become desperate to end her condition…and if that means going rogue and forging a new fate for her child to study, so be it.  Adventurers might find themselves caught in the olethros’s schemes, or even be hired by other psychopomps to bring in the rogue mother.  There is also the question of whether her child will be born an olethros after so long, or if some far darker creature will erupt from her womb instead…

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 220–211

One last post out the door before 2018.  Happy New Year everybody, and have a great 2018!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Occult Dragon

(Illustration by Christina Yen comes from the artist’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Astral, dream, etheric, nightmare…occult?

At first glance, the occult dragon seems like a bad entry from a late-’80s anniversary issue of Dragon Magazine, following the usual recipe of “Add adjective and stir until dragon.” 

But upon closer examination, it actually fits.  Just as the other esoteric dragons have a transitive plane or dream dimension to call their own, occult dragons hail from the Akashic Record, a demiplane tucked away in the Astral that includes “a visual library of perfect psychic records of every moment in the history of the multiverse” (per Occult Adventures).

As such, it’s no surprise that these are essentially draconic librarians, researchers, and diviners—when your home demiplane is a library, that’s all to be expected.  They also make excellent appraisers and psychometrists, able to read the value and the history of an object (and use it, if it’s a magic item) with consummate skill.  For this reason, they are collectors and hoarders to a degree even other dragons find shocking (which is saying something), particularly when it comes to psychically charged objects.  Finally, they are also perhaps more urban (and urbane) than any other true dragons besides golds, happily moving in disguise through humanoid cities.

Interestingly, occult dragons aren't particularly strong.  Perhaps this is because they only hail from a demiplane…or perhaps it says something about the relative power of truth versus dreams…

Finally, even if esoteric dragons and the Akashic Record aren’t your thing, an occult dragon makes a good one-off encounter.  There are plenty of magical libraries or universities that might have a guardian that is, for all intents and purposes, an occult dragon, no matter how you re-skin it for your players.

Bruised and bleeding from more than a dozen sets of claw marks, a young occult dragon crashes its way into an adventuring party’s sanctum.  It gasps out that it has “the answer” for them, then passes out from its wounds.  What “the answer” is will remain a mystery unless the adventurers can heal the dragon…and defeat the pack of hounds of Tindalos that arrive hot on the dragon’s heels.

One of the more notable spy networks on Avilar is comprised primarily of occult dragons.  They spend much of their time in human or half-elf form, often selling their services as detectives and object readers (a convenient cover for their abilities that helps them forge connections to those in power).  They seem to be interested in knowledge for its own sake, but surely no one builds such a powerful network without an agenda of some kind…

Adventurers make their way to a library that appears to be perched on the edge of Infinity.  The library caretakers are a collection of clockwork beings, gnomes, and oddly civilized gnolls.  If they make trouble or wander into the Restricted Wing, they are met by the library’s real masters: a nest of occult dragons.  The dragons at this library specialize in knowledge relating to something called the Aeon War, which occurred long ago but, paradoxically, is about to occur for the first time (again?)… 

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 96–97

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!

There are only about 60 minutes of Christmas left, but that’s still plenty of time to stream/download last Tuesday’s Christmas radio show!  Two hours of holiday tunes, from old favorites to ska covers and everything in between.  Enjoy y’all, and since I think I’m taking tomorrow off, I’ll have more tunes for you in the New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Obsidian Golem

Most golems are created to serve as security systems and tomb guardians.  They are built to last and built to crush—not always in that order. 

Obsidian golems, on the other hand, are made to cut people the hell up.

Obsidian is brittle, so it has a lifespan, as weapons (and constructs) go.  Obsidian also comes from volcanic areas, and people who live near volcanoes have to have a certain comfort with transience and uncertainty.  In other words, the mage who is making an obsidian golem is probably making it because obsidian is what’s handy, not what’s best or most durable. But that doesn’t matter, because the mage who’s making an obsidian golem has other things in mind than crafting an eternal protector. The mage who makes a golem out of volcanic glass intends that golem to be used—with all the bloodiness and pain of a macuahuitl. 

Don’t believe me? Look at those abilities: Bleed damage.  Jagged Body (Ex).  Obsidian Spray (Ex).  Death Throes (Ex).

Sure, Bestiary 6 says, “Obsidian golems often are used as deterrence against tomb robbers.”  But you can bet we’re not talking lonely pyramids far from civilization.  We’re talking tombs or mausoleums in active necropolises located in or near major cities.  Victims of an obsidian golem are meant to leave a bloody spectacle, and the few survivors are meant to have an agonizing tale of horror to recount to other would-be thieves.

The most famous authority on surgery in the last age was also a necromancer.  More cosmopolitan than his magical colleagues—and well aware of their propensity for grave robbing—his tomb relies on finely crafted constructs for protection, rather than flesh golems or the unquiet dead.  The obsidian golem that guards his corpse was actually his surgical aide during life, its sharp fingers serving as ideal scalpels during the necromancer’s lectures.

Having been caught sneaking into a forbidden temple, adventurers are forced to play ōllamaliztli for the nobles’ entertainment.  If they lose, they will be sacrificed.  If they win…well, the high priest has an obsidian golem positioned at the shrine at the entrance to the locker room to ensure that the blood price is paid either way.

A shaitan lent a portion of her power to aid in the creation of an obsidian golem.  Now she wants it back.  She hires adventurers to smash the construct and free the animating spirit shard inside.  In the intervening decades, however, the golem ended up being buried in ash after a nearby volcano erupted.  Amid the shattered remains of the lava-damaged city, two xorns of unusual size now regard the golem as theirs, and they are loath to give up their prize.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 141

Last Tuesday was my “Best of 2017” show on The New Indie Canon, featuring my favorite new and important songs from this year.  There’s only about half an hour left to grab it, so stream/download it now till midnight (Monday, 12/18/17, U.S. Eastern).  And thanks for listening all year long!

Monday, December 11, 2017


Spheres of annihilation suck don’t they?  (Facing one in combat, that is.  If you’re in control of one, wheeee!)

But…what if one of those spheres was somebody’s egg?

That’s what you get with the oblivion…a one-eyed, Colossal smoke cloud from the Negative Energy Plane that leaves a trail of annihilation, dubiety (man, that’s a good word), and enslaved servants of entropy in its wake…and which might, maybe, possibly have hatched from a sphere of annihilation.  Who’s to know?  You’ll already be dust and dubiety (woo!) before you find out.

Stat-wise, it’s pretty clear that the oblivion is meant to be the penultimate or even the final monster of a campaign.  It sneezes through damage reduction.  It disintegrates at will.  (Yeah, you read that right; disintegrate is a cantrip to this thing.)  You can’t banish it unless you’ve got an artifact or you’re a god…you get the idea.  Oblivions mean to deliver just that—oblivion, and the eventual end of the cosmos—and only the mightiest heroes have a prayer of stopping one.

Arcanist Aron of the Black Rod is the most famous mage of the age…perhaps of any age since the falling of the White Tower.  His vanishing in the Year of Lost Hope was met with alarm across the continent, and his return in the Year of the Shadowed Griffon was enough to turn back the orc horde at Karsum.  He has walked the worlds many times since then, each time becoming more powerful and more distant from mortal men.  His latest planewalk was once too many, however.  He fell to the touch of an oblivion, and the “Aron” that returned is a servant of entropy who is currently preparing a ritual to summon his dire master.

The oblivion known as the Dustsinger is responsible for the deaths of at least three planets: the Flesh Orb (now a spheroid lattice of bone and rotted tendons known as the Cage), the former forest moon of Nesserit (whose fey, driven mad with grief, are more undead than faerie), and Ossus.  This last planet put up the best fight against the Dustsinger, and it’s said that the cat-headed goddess Bastet helped her worshippers escape to another world—at the cost of one of her lives.

A band of adventurers has been mercenary, larcenous, duplicitous, backstabbing, and murderous…and that’s on their best day.  But they find themselves forced into new roles as heroes when one of their oldest allies, the sorcerer-magistrate Inwelm, unleashes an oblivion in the very heart of Singate.  With the White Rose paladins in exile (the adventurers’ fault), the High Prelate jailed in disgrace (ditto), and the duke dying of night pox (a coincidence, though they did raid his treasury), only Singate’s worst adventurers stand between the oblivion and the city’s—and then the world’s—destruction.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 202–203

Hi guys!  It’s The…Fortnightly Bestiary?  Sigh.  I’m trying.  But hey, I wrote an adventure seed for evil PCs!

Hey, have a radio show!  I play music.  Mostly indie rock, though some other genres managed to sneak in there as well, including a Christmas/Hanukkah song or two.  It’s a blast.  You’ve got till midnight tonight (Monday, 12/11/17, U.S. Eastern) to stream/download it, and since that’s in an hour, why not grab it now?