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Showing posts tagged aberration

Plankta

Planktas are odd. Bestiary 5 describes them as “stony creatures formed from the shattered remnants of ancient island civilizations devastated and inundated by natural or magical cataclysms”—okay, check, we got that—“and given life by unleashed magical energies and the anguished spirits of those lost in the tragedies.” Makes sense. Except…planktas do not remain creatures of unleashed energies and spirits—in other words, they are not outsiders or fey or even undead. Instead, they become aberrations—true mortal creatures, albeit alien ones.

澳门英皇娱乐Of course, becoming such a creature also means having the drive to procreate…and in the plankta’s case, that means destroying more island civilizations. It’s a grisly life cycle to say the least.

None of that will probably ever come into play at your game table, unless you’re really deeply exploring themes of climate change and island cultures. And even the choice to make them aberrations probably had to do more with behind the scenes math—“We need X number of aberrations in this book, and we only have Y, so get brainstorming.” But once the monster is in print, I find it super interesting to wrestle with the implications of what’s in the stat block.

One more thing about planktas: They are described as animate jumbles of buildings and rock, and the illustration makes them look vaguely hermit crab-like. But that’s by no means made explicit in the text, so their forms might be even more outlandish, depending on the nature of the cataclysm that formed them…

A band of adventures began its career in the shadow of an exploding volcano, ferrying passengers out of the doomed city of Hestius. Now the Hestian Beast, a plankta born of Hestius’s destruction, threatens their adopted home of Sanctis. Now far more experienced and with a clear enemy in sight, this time they resolve to fight rather than ferry.

Ships have been disappearing澳门英皇娱乐 along Giant’s Foot Strait. A clan of deep merfolk has been blamed, but the truth is a plankta has been raining boulders (and its own discorporated rocky body) on the passing ships. Investigating the mystery may uncover the hitherto unknown sunken city whose destruction birthed the plankta, as well as unlock a runic alphabet that has had researches stumped for years.

The Ringwrack is a vast chain of archipelagos circling the Sea of Rage. Planktas are more common here than anywhere else in the world, thanks to the extreme level of volcanic activity in the region and the destructive procreation of the planktas themselves. Planktas that were fathered rather than arising spontaneously tend to resemble their sire. Those that resemble stony hermit crabs were born from Old Karg, those that resemble weeping whales made of marble were sired by the White Witch, and those that resemble massive iguanas seem to trace back to a mystery progenitor near the equatorial line.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 195

I have feelings about 2019. I have feelings about the last decade. I’ll save them for another day, but suffice it to say I’m ready for 2020 in a big way. Happy New Year, everyone.

Look what I got in the mail! 

(If you’re wondering why I’m excited, it’s because my “Ecology of the Sinspawn” is inside!  Get it in stores now!  Or you can click.  Do it for Drake.)

Omnipath

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(Illustration by Yigit Koroglu comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

The last year or so has been pretty good to aboleths—their schemes are the focus of the Ruins of Azlant Adventure Path, they got a full-fledged ecology in the same, and psychic monsters and psychic magic in general have been on the upswing since the release of Occult Adventures and the Occult Bestiary.  

One of OB’s contributions was the omnipath, the information-sharing/communications network (with a dash of spying and possession) of the aboleth race.  It was also one of our first indications that the race (known as othagu or alghollthus, depending on what source you’re reading) included more phenotypes than the tentacled fish form of the aboleths and the veiled masters.  Omnipaths resemble eels, but with a horrific set of multiple jaws nested inside each other, like something from the Alien澳门英皇娱乐 franchise.  They have equally horrifying powers: an eidetic memory, the magic of a 15th-level psychic, a touch that can turn skin transparent and vulnerable, psychic tail rays (because why not), and a telepathic mesh that allows an omnipath to share sensations and possess victims with alarming facility.  They are, in short, bad news.

澳门英皇娱乐If you’re an aboleth fan, omnipaths make an excellent high-level contribution to the family tree. If you’re not, they could still be useful in your campaign, either as one-off aquatic/subterranean monsters or as part of some other cabal.  Iku-tursos and siyokoys are both good options to pair omnipaths with in Pathfinder.  And in D&D (particularly 2e AD&D Spelljammer) the neogi race may have bred omnipaths to combat the threat of illithids, or developed them in some sick collaboration with the mind flayers.

The mysterious and seemingly utopian kingdom澳门英皇娱乐 of Ildevania is protected by the Queen’s Mantle—a phrase meant as a metonym for her power and authority, but that also nods to the very real mesh of telepathic energy she shares with her trusted agents, the Footmen.  Adventurers discover that many of the Footmen are actually omnipaths and their thralls.  Is the country’s utopian peace worth the dark bargain the queen has made?

Adventurers manage to subdue the saboteur Renoir and shut the Cypher Gate, sealing in the dread energies he meant to unleash.  His capture also reveals the very real threat of the aboleth nation lurking far below the canals of Vinchenza, City of Spices and Spies.  Incensed that Renoir shattered the Calling Crystal澳门英皇娱乐 that allowed Vinchenza’s fleet captains to speak over long distances, the Doge’s Council wants adventurers who can do the same to the aboleths—by gutting their omnipath network like so many eels.

A spiritualist unlocks a dark secret from an adventurer’s past: She was an omnipath in her past life.  Moreover, that omnipath’s mother is still alive…and seeks to make contact with her lost daughter, in whatever reincarnated form she now takes. The adventurer must wrestle with what to do with this information, investigate what new insights or powers her heritage might unlock…and face the possibility that this is all a complicated aboleth plot.

Occult Bestiary 38–39 & Bestiary 6澳门英皇娱乐 204–205

I linked to the more recent (Bestiary 6) stats for the omnipath above.

Neothelid Overlord

The neothelid, as I’ve written before, was Pathfinder’s answer to D&D’s proprietary mind flayers. But it served another purpose as well. Remember that, originally, Pathfinder was not a game system; it was a game setting澳门英皇娱乐—and as such, it needed to differentiate itself from the other 3.5 settings out there.  Neothelids, with their wormlike shapes, suite of mental powers, and seugathi servants, confirmed what other early Pathfinder products had already begun to suggest: Golarion was a world where Lovecraft’s Old Ones and Outer Gods had a definite footprint…or rather, a definite pseudopodprint.  

The neothelid overlord is a neothelid on its way to becoming…something else.  Something much closer to those entities that dwell in the blackness between the stars. The overlord’s head splits.  Its consciousness begins to transcend its biology. Its tails dig as if they want to become roots.  Its psychic powers become true psychic magic.  And just looking at it risks madness.

At CR 20, neothelid overlords are campaign-ending villains.  Defeating a conclave of these creatures should be the culmination of years of effort in game time (and possibly even real time).  Of course, failing澳门英皇娱乐 to defeat a neothelid overlord conclave…well, that doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Adventurers bring down a city’s ruling class of necromancers…in the process, exposing a subterranean kingdom of ghouls to the notice of the surface world as well.  But it turns out the ghoul kingdom is a necessary evil, for they are all that keeps a neothelid overlord in check in his mushroom-forest vault.

Strange benefactors have aided a party of adventurers against demons and devils throughout their career.  But then these same benefactors begin to suggest strikes against druid stone circles, goodly temples, and even angelic redoubts and hidden celestial cities—a pantheistic hatred alarming in its intensity.  Careful investigation uncovers seugathi cultists and rumors of dark wormlike lords older than the gods themselves, who worship Powers from a reality that predates this one.

The world of Chasm should have split in two—as is all too apparent from the near-bottomless canyon that circles the planet like a hellish meridian.  The only thing holding the shattered sphere together is a monstrous bhole trapped in stasis long ago.  Now, a neothelid conclave seeks to awaken the bhole and free the worm to split Chasm like an apple in an offering to their dark gods.

Occult Bestiary澳门英皇娱乐 36–37

Mutant

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(Illustration by James Krause comes from GeekDad and is © Paizo Publishing.)

We’ve covered mutants in this space before—the Inner Sea Bestiary’s Mana Wastes mutants, of course—but Bestiary 5’s mutants澳门英皇娱乐 are their own breed and deserve their own entry.  Besides, by and large Mana Wastes mutants all fit mostly the same mold (or template, as it were): the same ability bonuses, a shared list of benefits, a few acid- and disease-focused special abilities, and a small menu of deformities…which makes sense for mutants all forged in the same brutal crucible.

On the other hand, Bestiary 5’s mutant template throws open the ability bonus/penalty doors and unlocks a pretty full spectrum of 20 beneficial mutations and 12 harmful deformities for the GM to choose from.  This allows you to customize your mutants at the colony level (maybe all the mutants in this sewer have gills…) or by individual (…but the one about to sneak attack you also has an extra arm and a terrible stench). (Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, 20 and 12 just happen to be numbers you have icosahedral dice for—perfect for those of you who love rolling on random mutation tables like it’s 1978.)

Once you’ve statted up your mutants, it’s time to turn to the eternal questions: 1) How did they get that way; 2) is however they got that way another wrinkle/challenge you can use to enrich your players’ experience (swamp muties gonna swamp, but is that swampiness reflective of their environment or perhaps because of a radioactive MacGuffin?); and 3) what do they want right this minute?  Fantasy RPGs being what they are, usually what these fantasy mutants want right this minute is not to found an integrated private school in Westchester, NY, to learn to hone their powers in a world that hates and fears them (RIP Len Wein, BTW), but rather they’d prefer to club the PCs’ brains in and roast them on a spit.  After all, swamp muties gonna swamp.

Adventurers are cornered by mutants in a radioactive wasteland.  They are quickly overwhelmed and nearly pummeled to paste by a three-armed ettin. At the last minute, they are saved by the appearance of an undead creature with glowing eyes and sore-covered, flaking orange skin.  This is one of the irradiated dead (see Pathfinder Adventure Path #87: The Choking Tower澳门英皇娱乐), and its very presence inspires terror in the mutants. If the adventures defeat the ravening undead—particular if they use divine magic, which the mutants have failed to master—the twisted humanoids are willing to parley with the adventurers.

The Bone Star is not a star at all, but a miles-long satellite roughly resembling a human femur.  Normally a teleportation gate connects the two ends of the Bone Star, allowing the telepathic sages on each extremity to pursue their research, trade ideas, and share shipments of food and supplies from the worlds beyond.  But when the gate goes down and a solar cyclone delays the resupply ships, adventures must venture into the mysterious and disused central shaft. Here the biosphere chambers were long ago overrun by sentient molds, malfunctioning robots, and mutant descendants of the original scientists who failed in their stewardship of the satellite.

Mutations are a plague in most subterranean realms.  澳门英皇娱乐Some even breed true—the drow underclass of Civ Po’Dan are extremely quick but bird-boned, while their counterparts in Chevar Yith tend toward armored scales and mad fits of rage.  Meanwhile, one in five troglodytes is born mindless; their sacrifice to the roper philosopher-beasts is a tradition on its way to becoming a sacrament.  The mutations are actually a side effect of the ceremonies that imbue drow nobles with their magical legacies.  If anyone knew this, it would change the politics of the Underrealms forever.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 180–181

澳门英皇娱乐Last time I was posting late because of the eclipse; this time I was busy with the usual hospital stuff and helping my mom celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday.  But I’m thrilled as always to be back hanging out in your Tumblr feed!

Bummed to see James L. Sutter move on from Paizo but psyched for him as well.  I don’t have enough hours in my day today to give him a proper sendoff (hell, I still owe Wes a proper sendoff and his departure was in May) but suffice it to say I’m a big fan of James, I’ve enjoyed every one of his books I’ve read and our interactions out in Seattle (he was my tour guide through the Paizo offices), I think he’s making a smart move, and I wish him all the best.

Liavaran Dreamer

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(Illustration by Ben Wootten comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

In the Pathfinder RPG’s default solar system, Liavaran dreamers澳门英皇娱乐 are relatives of the jellyfish-like Brethedan race.  Residents of a gas giant, the Brethedans sent colonists to their closest planetary neighbor. After ages of no contact, a second convoy was sent, where they discovered the original Brethedans’ descendants had gone feral, lulled by—or even addicted to—Liavara’s numerous ley lines. The resulting dreamer is a somnambulant creature more asleep than awake, following the ley lines in a dreamlike state.

None of this seems like the makings of much of a monster, especially since Liavaran dreamers don’t combine like their Brethedan cousins do.  (Even if you mind-link with one, the worst that can happen is that might be temporarily dazzled, too.)  But dreamers still need to eat…and unlike Brethedans, they have an engulf ability, with acid damage and paralysis in the bargain.  They also really, really like their harmonious sleep.  Remove one from its ley line for too long, or reduce it below half its hit points, and you essentially get a raging barbarian of an air jellyfish, liable to crit you into ribbons and/or a bloody pulp courtesy of tentacles that do bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage in an 18–20 range.  Think of them like you would a psychic longhorn—it’s a cow as long as you’re on the other side of the fence, but up close and riled up, it’s a bull—and that’s a completely different animal, figuratively speaking.

This blog, however, is setting-neutral.  So if our Brethedans are just brethedans, and our psychic jellyfish aren’t Liavaran, what kind of dreamers do we get instead?

Brethedans are common visitors to the airship-friendly city of Spike—many are even citizens.  So the owners of the Metallos Menagerie should have expected some trouble when they chose to exhibit a flotilla of T’Sharan dreamers.  Still, even the most jaded Spikers were caught by surprise when the brethedans did not just protest the display of their degenerate cousins, but instead rioted and let all the menagerie’s beasts free.  Now wild monsters from three continents roam the Spire City—and the most dangerous of all are the T’Sharan dreamers.  Starved for both meat and the reassuring hum of a ley line, they are hours, if not minutes, away from atavistic fury.

“Don’t split the party.”  Even fledgling dungeon delvers know this.  But when a party of adventurers sets out to kill a psychic parasite, they have to do it on two worlds at once.  On this plane, they have to put down a Medusan dreamer driven mad by the parasite that distorts its precious ley harmonics.  And in the Dreamscape, they have to slay the parasite’s psychic form, that of an ioun stone-juggling munavri rake.  If either half of the parasite persists, it will regenerate in time…and with a vengeance.

“‘Aether prospecting’ they call it.  You dive into the gas giant’s psychic mantle and come up with tanks full of ley energy.  It’s a gig that pays obscene money; on top of that the aether yields are pretty much essential for most large-sale enchantment work.  We’re talking magical vessels or structures, mind you, not your run-of-the-mill sparkly sword.  You just have to make sure a flotilla of dreamers don’t paralyze you and melt you into goo for stealing their stash, or that one of those oma whales doesn’t fry you like bacon as it’s swallowing your ship whole.  But you’re tough enough for the job…ain’t you?”

Occult Bestiary 31

Note that I linked to the Archives of Nethys for stats, since I know Paizo folk tend to be fans of that site.  Careful to avoid copyright issues, the d20PFSRD I usually use for such monsters calls them “sky dreamers.”

If you’re looking for the lesser death, it’s back here in the “Grim Reaper” entry.

No radio show tonight. Post-snow the roads seem okay, but close to an hour commute each way on ice at night still isn’t the best move.

Hundun

澳门英皇娱乐What up, dawgs? Where my giant, monkish aspects of the gaping, formless void that preceded the creation of the multiverse at?!?

Wow.  I really just typed that.

So yeah, part of the above sentence comes from Bestiary 5’s description of the hundun, and part does not.  (I’ll leave you to guess which was which.)  According to Wikipedia, the hundun comes from one of the murkier realms of Chinese mythology—and I do mean that “murkier” literally; the words “hundun” and “wonton” (as in the soup) share an origin—involving primordial chaos, the World Egg, an ancient son of a fiendish emperor, a being called Mr. Chaos…you get the idea.  It’s complicated.

Pathfinder’s hundun narrows and—kind of?—clarifies this concept into a race of Large-sized, faceless, skin-robed monks devoted to (and who are likely an expression of the longing for) the void that existed before the multiverse.  Got that?  Good.

I think hunduns deserve to be treated like a Big Deal.  After all, they’re CR 21 and get the two-page spread treatment—that alone indicates that they’re powerful and important.  (Two-page spreads are giant boulders in the otherwise limpid river of Bestiary entries, which means that and the rest of the Paizo editing/design team give them extra attention.) Hunduns also just plain interesting for a host of reasons: They’re truly Big Bads from a non-Western mythology.  Their existence suggests alien gods, but those gods aren’t known to us. They live on the Negative Energy Plane but aren’t undead.  They use gravity, spacetime, and strange attraction as weapons, like something simultaneously out of a science textbook and a Dr. Strange comic.  They hate all creatures of law, but they also think proteans (and probably demons, too) are wusses.  Their bizarre staves are, simply put, effed up.  And don’t even think about trying to read one’s mind.

澳门英皇娱乐So if you’re looking to do one of those campaigns with a Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett or latter-day Harry Dresden kind of ending, where strange hooded figures are trying to unmake existence itself…well, these guys are your huckleberries.

There’s another reason I like these monsters which is a bit esoteric and nitpicky, but bear with me: I like hunduns because they are ineffable agents of premultiversal chaos that don’t come from Lovecraft.

Don’t get me wrong—I love Lovecraft.  I have his annotated works sitting on my to-read table, I occasionally pick up the love-letter-to-Lovecraft comic Providence澳门英皇娱乐, and I’m thoroughly enjoying Pathfinder’s current Adventure Path, Strange Aeons, being developed by himself.

But.  But.  Because of all that…and the re-release of Call of Cthulhu…and all the Mythos-inspired board games out there…we are currently at peak Lovecraft.  We don’t need any more at the moment.  Plus, Lovecraft homages tend to have their own gravity and logic.  Lovecraftian adventures also have a way of trumpeting that they are such.  It’s pretty rare, for instance, to have one Lovecraftian monster in an adventure…there will always be two or more, plus shrieks of “Iä!”,  references to R’lyeh, and Yellow Sign graffiti.  That’s perfectly fine in Strange Aeons, where exploring Lovecraftian tropes is the point, but in other adventures it often feels like an interruption.  We wouldn’t let such obvious IP shout-outs as Jedi and Vulcans into our games, but we don’t blink at shoggoths—even when we probably should.

So as much as I love Lovecraft, I also have really begun to dig works where references to the Great Old Ones and other Lovecraftiana are more seamlessly integrated.  For instance, I love the aforementioned recent Harry Dresden novels involving Outsiders.  Ditto, I love the presentation of the Old Ones in Anthony Horowitz’s The Gatekeepers series (though I haven’t listened to the last book yet)—the whole pentad manages to be indebted to Lovecraft without ever aping him or referencing Cthulhu et al.  That’s a pretty neat trick.

So why do I like hunduns? Because they offer another way of getting to notions of Chaos and alien gods without going through Lovecraft.  And they also offer new connective tissue that helps connect the Mythos into the mythology stew that is the rest of Pathfinder. In the same way the fey umbrella embraces Greek satyrs and Welsh pookas without straining, hunduns give us sinews that join Azathoth to Bestiary 2’s sceaduinars to Bestiary 3’s imperial dragons, all in the same universe. In short, hunduns let us have lovecraftian adventures, not just LOVECRAFTian ones.  And I am all for it.

After great struggle and clashes in two solar systems, adventurers defeat a void dragon in its lair.  Among the wyrm’s many outlandish and alien treasures they discover a primordial egg that seems to have its own gravity.  Unfortunately, the slaying of the void dragon was the trigger destined to hatch the embryonic hundun inside…

Adventurers have faced a strange array of creatures—wayward, wizard-slaying homunculi, masterless skum, mad lunar naga mediums, even the arrogant, libertarian dorvaes—and time and time again, signs point to a puppet master pulling the strings, a being known as Unraveling Hope. Eventually the adventurers’ search takes them to a dying planet shard, a gaping vortex to the Negative Energy Plane, and Unraveling Hope itself, a hundun about to sacrifice the dark planetoid to an even darker god.

Ever since an accident marked one of their number with a mathematically precise, swirling sigil, an adventuring band has had ties to the axiomites and the Planes of Law.  Thus they have heard rumors of a new scholar come to stay at the Harmonious Academy of the Rule, a strange inevitable-like sage.  Upon the recommendation of a suspicious ally, they attend a public lecture given by this mechanical master.  There they witness the sage describe a calculus function that not only does not describe any known arithmetic or phenomenon…but actually undescribes it right before their eyes.  The inevitable-like body hides a hundun inside, and the hundun’s function of unmaking begins to spread across the Academy campus like whitewash across the mural of logical existence.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5澳门英皇娱乐 144–145

Apparently Kobold Press’s Dark Roads & Golden Hells澳门英皇娱乐 has an alternate take on the hundun.  I own it but haven’t read it yet.  #theusualpatchproblem

Speaking of #patchproblems, one of my readers was a bit critical of my recent bath disaster, writing:

Sounds like you need to be more careful with your things…

Ouch, burn!  Said reader clearly doesn’t know how anal I am with my books—I drive friends and significant others nuts.  But this was an unfamiliar bathtub and I was exhausted澳门英皇娱乐—a bad combo on the best of days.

(Also I should stress that I found to be thematically appropriate and funny.  If you’ve read his book, you know why.)

Grrrr…I knew there was a better photo for the heresy devil floating around somewhere, but my New Year’s accommodation’s lousy Internet kept getting in the way and I gave up.  I wanted to link to this one.

Looking for the horn caterpillar?  It’s back here.

Heikegani

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(Illustration by Jim Nelson comes from the artist’s blog澳门英皇娱乐 and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Normally we speak of aberrations in terms of creatures from deep under the earth, who have strange physiologies, or who hail from the borders of reality or other dimensions.  (The Underdark in 2e/3.0 Forgotten Realms, for instance, was aberration central, as was anyplace that touched the Far Realms.)

But sometimes aberrations are just that—aberrations.  Something is just fundamentally wrong about their creation…or something went wrong and caused their creation.

And that’s where we get the heikegani from.  A samurai’s soul that can’t go to its eternal rest should become an undead or a haunt or something similar…and instead it gets trapped inside a crab zoea (great word!), doomed to spend its existence challenging interlopers from within a crustacean body.  It’s not undead, but it’s not released from its undying obsession either.  It is an aberration, full stop.

There are some nice crunchy bits in the heikegani stat block along with that amazing fluff—a heikegani can challenge opponents like a samurai, and may even try to wield a discarded dagger or knife like a katana (such a killer image!).  Also note that a heikegani can understand but not speak Common.  This likely leaves him all the more frustrated…but PCs who freely discuss tactics in front of the crustacean could be in for a nasty shock when it seemingly anticipates their every move.

澳门英皇娱乐All in all, the heikegani is a tragicomic figure.  If there’s one but of solace, it’s that a heikegani slain by the PCs can finally go to its rest…one hopes.

Heikegani patrol a forlorn stretch of beach.  They died defending the daughter of the shogun from hobgoblin mercenaries after both forces’ boats fetched up against the reef. The girl still lives here, tended by awakened wolves and growing more feral by the day. Her only connection to civilization is a tanuki who visits when he’s not too deep in his cups.  The heikegani ignore the wolves and the old drunkard but assume anyone else is an assassin.  Speaking of which, another detachment of hobgoblin mercenaries still hunts for the girl, driven by a ja noi master (Pathfinder Adventure Path #52: Forest of Spirits).

Elven samurai are especially prone to becoming heikegani, due to both their innate connection to nature and (many would argue) their overweening pride.  Sea, coral, and shoal elves thus treat all heikegani as honored brothers, especially as coral elves (along with grey and pine elves) are among those most likely to suffer this fate.  

Sages claim heikegani are intelligent and even wise, but in practice the pain of their condition often clouds their judgment.  A particularly crafty (Advanced) haniver gremlin has convinced a heikegani that she is his loyal servant, and that together they are the resurrected Red Ronin and Miyoko of the tavern tales.  The haniver prods the heikegani into performing “quests” that are really just bodyguard duty for the gremlin as she pursues her true goal of seeding the town’s water supply with ningyos.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 141

Heikegani crabs are a real thing澳门英皇娱乐 and really do look like they have one of those Japanese masks imprinted onto the back of their shells.  Really cool.

Speaking of Eastern monsters, a little while ago someone asked me about jiang-shi/hopping vampires, and I mentioned that I didn’t have much of a background in Japanese folklore.  Another reader replied that hopping vampires were Chinese, to which I can only respond, egad, my sincere apologies.  (On the other hand, I certainly proved my point—apparently I really am terrible澳门英皇娱乐 at Japanese (and Chinese!) folklore.)

Grimslake

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(Illustration by Damien Mammoliti comes from the artist’s DeviantArt page澳门英皇娱乐 and is © Paizo Publishing.)

The Abyss!  What a plane.  In the Abyss, grub eats you.

Extraplanar aberrations, grimslakes feed on corpses, lesser demons, and hapless adventurers.  (The first two are common in the Abyss; the last is typically found at the gaming table.)  Grimslakes resemble giant grubs and are known for sucking the marrow out of their meals, causing excruciating Constitution drain.

Given that they’re so monstrous, it’s easy to forget that grimslakes are somewhat intelligent, speak Abyssal, and have spell-like abilities.  Granted, their conversation revolves around food and the savoriness of certain screams, but it is conversation nonetheless.

“The Iron Brethren never leave a man behind.”澳门英皇娱乐  So goes the saying, and often enough it’s true. Disaster strikes, though, when an Iron Brother falls in the Abyss.  The Brethren send a sortie out to retrieve his body, not realizing that it is already incubating grimslake eggs.  By the time a party of adventurers reaches the scene, the young have hatched and devoured their way through a full third of the Steel Citadel.

Adventurers are sneaking through an Abyssal dungeon when they come across two cowering quasits—who surprisingly are not invisible. The quasits were supposed to be herding dretches, but grimslakes tunneled into their stockyard and devoured most of the demonstock.  Too cowardly to either report the disaster to their superiors or flee into the grimslakes’ tunnel, the quasits beg the adventurers to help slay the creatures. They even promise to throw in a casting of commune as payment, free and uncorrupted…honest.

Adventurers are forced to attend a ball hosted by a diabolist.  He tests both their command of etiquette and their fortitude with a succession of dishes ranging from the profane to the truly taboo.  At last he serves the pièce de résistance: grimslake young straight from the corpse (an especially daring choice giving grimslakes’ association with the Abyss). Due to a “misunderstanding,” the adventurers are served an adult, very much alive grimslake instead…and naturally their host and the other guests will be so shocked, verily, shocked澳门英皇娱乐 at the mix-up that it will take them several seconds (about three rounds) to recover and come to the party’s aid.

The Worldwound 55 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 136

Egregore

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(Image comes from artist Nikolai Ostertag’s DeviantArt page and is © Paizo Publishing.)

At first glance, the egregore is yet another floating brain monst—WAIT!  

Please, don’t scroll to the next entry.  Because this is not just any floating brain monster.  

I was going to give you a definition of “egregore” (short version: a collective, yet autonomous, group mind) but you’re better off just going to the Wikipedia page.  Not only is it a term translated/coined by Les Mis澳门英皇娱乐 author Victor Hugo, but both as a word and as a concept it has ties to an entire checklist of the obscure, occult, and mythological, including the Book of Enoch, the angelic Watchers, the nephilim, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Rosicrucians, among others.

澳门英皇娱乐For our purposes though, as a monster an egregore is the pooled collective will of cult, manifesting as a psychic entity made of brains (representations of the minds from which it is formed) and projecting a symbol of the ideals for which it stands.  

I’ll say that again: This is the collective mind of a cult turned into a monster.  (Through which the cult can cast psychic spells.  And it’s got some nasty tentacles made of light.  So yeah, be afraid.)  

澳门英皇娱乐The larger the cult and the stronger the belief, the bigger the egregore, up to and including so-called egregore masters that can hit 25 Hit Dice and Colossal Size.  So they next time your adventurers take on an evil cult, they might want to make sure the cultists don’t have time to put their heads together and make ready for them…

Aiming to seize control of the Sun Papacy, the Bishop of Flame works behind the scenes to establish a mystery cult venerating the Sun Lord’s dead aspect, Rha the Searing Spear.  If all goes well, their proselytizing will drag the church to the right, favoring his faction in the next election, or he will be appointed to head the inquisition meant to root the schismatics out.  Either way the bishop comes out on top…or so he thought, except the cultists have gleaned the secret of creating an egregore.  The Bishop of Flame needs adventurers to clean up the mess, without discovering his involvement, before the cultists’ aberration topples the Sun Papacy.

The trading nation of Mezzepor has always had its share of cults. With traders converging on it from all points of the compass, with hurricanes as likely to lash its ports as sandstorms to strike its farms, and with the stony cobbles of three previous dynasties underfoot, Mezzepor is fertile ground for heretics, schismatics, snake handlers, and mystery cults of all kinds.  Among the egregores known to have manifested in recent decades include the Ever-Staring Eye, the product of a death cult; the Ouroboros, the creation of cult that intended to evolve (or evolve back) into serpentfolk; and the Thought Tyrant, an egregore master created by a secret society of soldiers and warpriests, which was only brought low by the sudden appearance of near-legendary nephilim.  None of these cults were entirely eradicated, so the means to resurrect their respective egregores might still exist.

The elves’ near-monopoly over the Ygg, the multiverse-spanning World Tree, makes them the preëminent information traders, stockbrokers, and spies in space.  By communing with branches of the Ygg, their druids are able to share information in real time across the solar system and even into the planes.  This makes them vulnerable, though, to misinformation, psychic viruses, and memetic infections and incursions that other races don’t even know exist.  Egregores are perhaps the most terrifying of these violent memes.  Thanks to the information-sharing properties of the Ygg, any cult leader with access to speak with plants has the ability to direct their egregore to any point along the Ygg (ignoring the usual one-mile limit of the spell), as long as there is another mind linked to the World Tree via speak with plants澳门英皇娱乐 at the receiving end.  More than one elvish spymaster has asked for a report on the destruction of this or that cult, only to have that cult’s egregore burst out of the mind of his treespeaker and begin lashing out with light tentacles and the cult’s channeled psychic spells.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 104–105

澳门英皇娱乐I might be fudging the rules a bit with that last seed.  I definitely don’t care.

Phrases I love from the egregore description in Bestiary 5澳门英皇娱乐: “they seem to take the form of brains only because of the conceptual link they represent” and “the egregore’s staring eye and bands of light are more metaphorical than physical.”  That’s juicy monster semiotics right there.

Also, how bizarre and cool is it that, thanks to Occult Adventures澳门英皇娱乐, a) Pathfinder has rules for phrenology, of all things, and that b) those rules are actually useful when examining the biology(?) of the egregore?

I vaguely feel like my conception of the Ygg owes something to Kevin J. Anderson’s Hidden Empire…but not too much, given that I never finished that particular audiobook. Still, better safe than sorry.