(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 Sea. Stream/download it here until tonight (Monday, 02/19/18) at midnight.