Wednesday, February 21, 2018


As proteans go, the oshageros is pretty simple.  No meditating on the beauty of ceaseless change or the nature of the Maelstrom, no trying to get mortals to broaden their perspectives, no games of transmutation or mental manipulation.  OSHAGEROS SMASH.

Of course, it’s not that simple—with Int 21, an oshageros would still wipe the floor intellectually with nearly every mortal wizard, and could out-consider (with Wis 18) even most mortal priests.  It’s just that all that piercing intellect leads them* to rather Gordian† solutions: too much order must be torn down.

That crystalline wall of Law separating Order from Chaos?  Oshageroses are gnawing at the foundations of that.  That presumptuous tower of justice on some Heavenly plane?  They’ll pop in and out in a smash-and-grab judge abduction.  That newly minted inevitable prototype?  Oshageros saboteurs will see it never reaches the production line.  And when the forces of Law strike at the heart of Chaos, oshageroses will stand ready (slither ready? side-wind ready?) with dispel law, chaos hammer, draining tentacles and warpwave bursts to turn aside the blow.

Adventurers attempt to replace the keystone of a magical arch.  To accomplish this feat, a rift must be opened, then the threads of reality anchored to the arch as a ritual is performed…all while fending off assaults from oshageroses drawn to the magnet pull of invasive law.

In theory, one shouldn't be able to walk along the Crystal Horizon separating the Universe That Is from the Void—it’s supposed to be a theoretical construct, and a sphere to boot.  But in the impossible way of the Planes, the Crystal Horizon manifests as a mountain range of otherworldly quartz and granite.  Half-celestial halfling ridge runners man watchtowers here, lighting beacon fires and racing along knife-edge precipices to warn of oshageros assaults from the misty Void.

The School of Thoughts sprawls along Avedon Square and the Aspirateum in the Sixth Sacred Ward.  Anyone who assumes the academy’s moniker is a wry joke would be mistaken—the school literally collects, catalogs, dissects, and displays important concepts from across the multiverse.  An oshageros named Uragolo, Invar, and/or Shezyx (depending on the day) joins in the School of Thoughts’s regular philosophical debates.  It is understood among the planar students that physical might is a valid means of supporting one’s metaphysical arguments, but mortals on the receiving end of the protean’s tentacle lash are often caught by surprise.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 212

*If any monster was going to use the singular “they” pronoun, you know it would be a protean. 

†As in the Knot.

In addition to the crocodilian jaws, artist Rayph Beisner gives the oshageros a tail…club?…that is also suggestive of a rattlesnake’s rattle.  Whatever it is, I love it.

Enjoy another radio show, with new Remember Sports and Calexico! Also, 15 years of the Postal Service! Stream/download it now until Monday, 02/26/18, at midnight.

Monday, February 19, 2018


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

An Indonesian cryptid in our world, the orang-pendak has made its way into the Pathfinder game as a kind of jungle sasquatch, although much smaller (the name means “short person”) and more orangutan-like (no surprise there).  They are shy and nomadic, though their migrations have a pattern if one makes the effort to study them; they befriend apes easily, especially orangutans and gibbons, and train them to fight for them; and they are surprisingly strong for creatures of their size.

At first this doesn’t seem like a lot to build adventures out of.  But orang-pendaks are actually situated in an interesting design space.  As relatives of the sasquatch, they’re a good alternative when you want a “wild man of the woods” race more keyed to tropical mountain jungles.  As CR 1/2 creatures, they’re good encounters for 1st–3rd-level PCs that don’t automatically lead to violence, but are level-appropriate if a fight breaks out.  Vanarans might regard them as distant forebears, honored cousins, or embarrassing primitives.  They hunt with spears, clubs, and bolas—and let’s face it, every time I see an ape-man proficient in bolas, you know I’m thinking Planet of the (very short) Apes.  Although these ape-men won’t be riding horses, thanks to the adorable Own Two Feet (Ex) ability—ability? quality? drawback?—which has them so unnerved at riding other animals and vehicles that they take massive penalties—a great detail.

Most importantly, they’re a potential PC race!  And plenty of players out there will be willing to sacrifice some Intelligence and skill ranks for a four-foot orangutan-like druid or ranger (or shaman or hunter…or maybe even barbarian or monk!) who’s surprisingly strong (I keep forgetting to mention the orang-pendak’s Tear Apart (Ex) ability), petrified of horses, and has a platoon of monkey friends.  Heck, I want to play one right now, and I hate simians.

Indonesian myth and legend has been really kind to Pathfinder players in recent years, and the orang-pendak is no exception.  Treat the relatively blank slate they provide as an opportunity and see what they can add to your game.

Adventurers begin their career as villagers sent forth to look for a tribe of orang-pendaks.  The ape-men’s migrations typically carry them near the village, whose economy has become reliant on the herbs and medicines they bring to trade—but this year, the tribe is late.  Should the adventurers find the orang-pendaks, they discover the tribe is tardy because they’ve been taking longer and longer routes to avoid the Canyon of Lost Hope.  Evil wayangs have established a secret redoubt in the canyon, and they’ve been capturing orang-pendaks and gripplis to ship back to the Plane of Shadow as slaves.

Adventures are called in to solve a locked-room mystery, where a flamboyant local sorcerer has been found murdered, his body locked within a cage.  Investigation reveals that a business rival gave the sorcerer an “orangutan”—actually, an orang-pendak accomplice—as a potential familiar.  At night, the orang-pendak (a rogue by training) unlocked his cage, murdered the sorcerer, put his body on display, and then shimmied up the chimney, using his outstanding strength to pry open the chimney cap and then force it back into place.

Adventurers wake in the morning to discover their camp surrounded by trees filled with hooting gibbons.  Hunted nearly to extinction, a tribe of orang-pendaks has allied with several treants; now the ape-men and their forest travel together for mutual protection.  At least one of the young orang-pendaks wishes to join the party for a time.  If they consent and the youth comes to harm, the orang-pendaks and their moveable forest may come hunting for them.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 186

Hey, I’m from Baltimore; you know I had to go Poe.

For my Blogger readers (or in case my Tumblr folk missed it), the other day I posted an appreciation of Dragon Magazine #165 here.  And while we’re at it, Dragon #187’s “Ecology of the Dakon” could be used to flesh out certain aspects of orang-pendak society (though by and large dakons seem more hierarchic, aggressive, and fixated on gold than orang-pendaks would be).

As I said on air, this episode might be the platonic ideal of my radio show: something old, something new, something folksy, something grunge.  It was a night for dancing as we celebrated Mardi Gras, the Elephant 6 Recording Company, and 20 years of Neutral Milk Hotel’s indie rock monument to Anne Frank, In the Aeroplane Over the SeaStream/download it here until tonight (Monday, 02/19/18) at midnight.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Bestiary deep cuts don’t get much deeper than the ophiotaurus.  It’s only found in a single reference from Ovid—and not from Metamorphoses, either, but Fasti.  That’s the mythological equivalent of saying your favorite ’90s alternative song is Sloan’s “Stove/Smother” cover.  Like, I can tell how you got there, but man, you were looking.

Aside from being a Gargantuan, mythic half-bull, half-snake-monster, the ophiotaurus is most significant for what it offers—a massive power boost in the form of either its ascension spell like ability and its Questing Beast (Su) ability—if PCs kill an ophiotaurus they have access to certain divinatory powers, and if they’re willing to accept a geas on top of that, they also get a massive moral bonus (+6 to Str and Con) per vengeful outrage. 

In other words, facing (and possibly slaying) an ophiotaurus is an excellent step along the way to facing a mythic Big Bad—perhaps even the penultimate step.  Every hero needs his Campbellian journey, and the Ophiotaurus checks off the Road of Trials and/or Apotheosis boxes pretty nicely.  An ophiotaurus’s death, though, should be more than a plot coupon—it should carry an air of what it is: a necessary sacrifice.

Adventures attempt to seal a portal to the realm of Baphomet, the demonic patron of evil minotaurs.  If they fail to light the temple braziers and burn the proper offerings, the snaking tile labyrinth beneath their feet reveals itself to be the pebbled hide of an awakening ophiotaurus.

At the behest of a sovereign dragon, adventurers race to the ends of the earth to place a magical yoke upon the shoulders of an ophiotaurus—an animal they did not even believe existed mere days ago.  Unfortunately, their demodand rivals have sent a lackey to beat them to the punch.  And “punch” is the operative word, for the vile servant is one of the Hundred-Handed Ones, a hekatonkheires.

Adventurers slay an ophiotaurus and eat its entrails, as the old legends instruct.  But in doing so, they have inadvertently performed a religious act, for the sacrifice of a bull, even a mythic one, belongs to Tiernos, the Lightning Lord.  Now the long-slumbering Allfather wakes, and the adventurers must contend with his assumption that they are his new high priests…and vassals.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 185

Somewhere out there someone is screaming, “The Ophiotaurus was also in the Percy Jackson series!!!” 

Fair enough.  I have not read the Percy Jackson books.  Usually mixing mythic tales and modernity is not my jam—I’ve had some grim experiences in the past.  But surely it can’t be any worse than the Nicholas Flamel books, right? Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say…

Percy Jackson saves [the Ophiotaurus] in the middle of the night, when he was warned by his favorite pegasus, Blackjack. He first thinks it is a female and names it "Bessie". The Ophiotaurus thinks that Percy is his protector. Later, the creature is brought to Olympus via a magic water bubble and is put under the care of Percy's father, Poseidon.


*gently closes laptop, stares into space for a minute, gets up to walk away*

Nope.  I’m out.  Not going to happen.  Nooooope.

Someone burn the room after I leave.  It’s the only way to be sure.

Once again it’s Monday night, and once again I am encouraging you, with barely an hour to spare, to click a link I should have posted last Wednesday.  Sigh.  Sorry about that.  But click anyway—it’s my first radio show of the Spring 2018 semester, and we’ve got new Hop Along, Camp Cope, and Baltimore’s own Wye Oak and Letitia VanSant, plus 20 years of Pearl Jam’s Yield.  Stream/download it now through midnight tonight (Monday, 02/12/18, U.S. Eastern)!