Pathfinder Colossus

I've been away for a while. Partly this is because I've been working on a hexcrawl for the blog, Devil's Reach, but also (less responsibly) I've been playing a ton of video games. Video games! Segue!

Oh. Yeah, Kingmaker spoiler warning. I guess.


As I mentioned back in August, my group is currently playing through Paizo's Kingmaker adventure.  They're now in the third book. At the end of the second book, the player's capital city is attacked by a giant owlbear while the players are away. And this thing is supposed to wreck shop--a whole city full of who are probably the highest level characters in the nation is only able to just barely repel it. This brings up a whole mess of problems about player agency (but we had an army stationed there!) and such, but what really bothers me about this supposedly giant owlbear is, by the book, the lil' shitter is only 15 ft. tall. The fuck? I mean, sure, that's like elephant-sized. And that's pretty big. But on the fantasy scale, that's nothing. I mean I'd shit my pants if that thing came at me, but for 7th level Pathfinder characters, that's like the average size of the stuff they're fighting. An owlbear that is five feet taller than the norm is very unlikely to evoke any sense of wonder from them.

But a 60 ft. owlbear, that's a different story. Take a gander at that screenshot from Shadow of the Colossus above. Look at the size of Wander and Agro compared to that colossus. It's massive and scary and awesome. If you haven't seen or played SotC, check it out. Seriously, check it out. I'll wait.

Giant monsters = bad ass. Climbing giant monsters = even more bad asser. So, I took some cues from SotC, made a subtype, and then made an owlbear colossus, a monster big enough that when my players heard how big it was, they spent 20 minutes of game time trying to confirm its size.

Colossus Subtype
  • Spell resistance equal to CR + 10
  • Resist acid, cold, electricity, fire 10
  • DR 5/- if CR 5 or below, DR 10/- if CR 6 or above
  • Weakpoint: Each creature of the colossus subtype has a spot in which their natural defenses are moot. Melee attacks at this point are made against the colossus’s touch AC, bypass DR, and deal 150% damage.  Generally the weakpoint is in a hard to reach location that requires climbing the colossus or flight to attack.
  • Climbable: Whether because of rocky outcroppings, shaggy fur, or symbiotic moss, colossi are particularly easy to climb, which is fortunate for adventurers trying to reach their weakpoints. Ascending a colossus requires an Acrobatics or Climb check equal to the colossus’s (CMD -20). Climbing up one body part is a move action. Climbing from the ground provokes an attack of opportunity, but climbing from body part to body part does not. A colossus cannot attack with a particular attack if the target creature is climbing on that body part (for example, cannot bite someone on its head). 
The idea behind this is that each colossus has a weakpoint, as described in the template. However, to reach that weakpoint, the players would have to climb up the colossus's body, which I divide into sections, generally around four. Sometimes (like in the case of the owlbear) I give a shortcut (the arms) that bypasses several parts but has a higher DC. I represent this at the table with a large drawing of the sections, and place minis in the appropriate slots. 

How it looks on the table.
Close-up of the owlbear colossus's parts, and a dude climbing them.

I did try just making it a monster template, but I ultimately found that making a subtype and then using the monster creation appendix in the Bestiary gave simpler, more customizable results. I feel like this subtype really only affects game play under level 5, and is utterly pointless after level 10 because flight becomes so common. That's also why I have the weakpoint only be vulnerable to melee attacks--if you want to take advantage of it, you're going to have run the risk of climbing on a fucking massive monster that wants to kill you. 

Making a Colossus
For the base monster, I look to the above mentioned monster creation appendix as a guideline. Here, I want a CR 10 owlbear colossus. I know just advancing the owlbear's hit die will (by the rules) only give me a Huge-sized owlbear, so instead I decided to apply the giant template. Three times. That gives us this guy:

Owlbear Colossus
XP 3,200
N Colossal
magical beast
Init +4; Senses
darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +12


AC 19, touch 1, flat-footed 18 (+17 natural, –8 size)
hp 87 (5d10+60)
Fort +18, Ref +4, Will +2
Resist acid, cold, electricity, fire 10 SR 17


Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +13 (2d8+16 plus
grab), bite +13 (4d6+16)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.


Str 43, Dex 10, Con 34, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +5; CMB +34 (+38
grapple); CMD 44 (48 vs. trip)
Improved Initiative, Great Fortitude, Skill Focus (Perception)
Perception +12 
SQ weakpoint (eyes), climbable (DC 24; legs->lower torso->upper torso->head, or legs->arms (DC 34)->head)

According to the template, this should only be a CR 7. And for the most part, the target numbers on the table match our owlbear's: 19 AC compared to 20, 87 HP compared to 85, and +13 to hit right on the dot. But holy shit, 92 damage plus grab? That's above the target number for CR 17! And that Fort save! Still, the owlbear's got far too low of HP and AC to just be a CR 10 on his own. 

In the end, I decided to give the obear CR 10's target HP of 130. I feel like that is balanced by his low AC and resistances, and his high damage is balanced by low to hit modifiers by CR 10 standards. In the end, I'm calling this guy a CR 10. Here's the final stats:

Owlbear Colossus CR 10
XP 9,600
N Colossal
magical beast
Init +4; Senses
darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +12


AC 19, touch 1, flat-footed 18 (+17 natural, –8 size)
hp 130 (5d10+60)
Fort +18, Ref +4, Will +2
Resist acid, cold, electricity, fire 10 SR 17


Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +13 (2d8+16 plus
grab), bite +13 (4d6+16)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.


Str 43, Dex 10, Con 34, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +5; CMB +34 (+38
grapple); CMD 44 (48 vs. trip)
Improved Initiative, Great Fortitude, Skill Focus (Perception)
Perception +12 
SQ weakpoint, climbable (DC 24; legs->lower torso->upper torso->head, or legs->arms (DC 34)->head)

 If you use any of this material, I'm interested to hear how it works for your group. This weekend I'll try to post some more example colossi.


The Pianta--Shine Get!

"You saved me! Thanks a bundle!"-a derpy pineapple man

Piantas thrive in the tropical weather, in places with beaches, white sand, and palm trees. Although they prefered to be called piantas, outsiders sometimes refer to them as Pineapple Men, or more insensitively "Potatoes with Noses."

Piantas are squat humanoids with large, bulbous honkers. Their skin tones come in any color a Skittle does. These folk are unable to grow hair (with the exception of mustaches, which both the men and women are known to sport). Instead, each pianta has a symbiotic relationship with a small plant on its head, lovingly called a tree hat. A happy tree hat equals a happy pianta. Their typical garb is minimalistic, to allow maximum contact with sunshine, morning dew, and sea waves. They weigh about as much as a dwarf and age as humans.

Piantas feel emotions ten times more strongly than their human counterparts. While a halfling might stop to appreciate a sunny day, a pianta might break into dance or fall to the ground crying in awe at nature's beauty. This works for negative emotions too. Stepping on an elf's toe might result in a dirty look, but do so to a pianta and you're liable to have a child-like temper tantrum on your hands.

Like elves, treants, and fey, piantas feel a connection to the natural places of the world. Unlike these others races, however, piantas do not see civilization as a determent to them. They are drawn to create cities of plaster and canals in the world's beautiful vistas. As a result, pianta villages are often frequent tourist hotspots.

Welcome to our beautiful city! Don't spoil it, or we'll slap your shit.

Pianta Race Traits (Pathfinder)
  • Ability Score: Piantas are strong and willful, but their strong personalities often come off as short-tempered or petty. They gain +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Charisma.
  • Size: Piantas are Medium creatures.
  • Type: Piantas are humanoids with the pianta subtype.
  • Base Speed: Piantas have a base speed of 20 feet.
  • Languages: Piantas begin play speaking Common and Pianta. Piantas with high Intelligence scroes can chose from the following: Aquan, Auran, Elven, Halfling, Ignan, Sylvan, or Terran.
  • Emotional: Piantas recieve a -4 penalty to saving throws against spells or spell-like abilities with the (emotion) descriptor. In addition, whenever a pianta has any type of morale bonus, it receives a +2 racial bonus to all saving throws.
  • Plant: As a full-round action, a pianta can plant itself into any type of loose ground (dirt, bog, sand=ok; stone, wood, metal=no). While planted, a pianta can take no actions except to dig itself up (a swift action), but gains the benefits of cover.
  • Chuckster: Piantas are very good at throwing things. They receive Throw Anything as a bonus feat at first level.
  • Sun, Wave, and Leaf: Piantas' connection with the natural world allows them to easily grasp certain types of magic. Sorcerer piantas with the aquatic, celestial, or verdant bloodlines treat their Charisma score as 2 higher for all sorcerer spells and class abilities. Cleric piantas with the water, sun, or plant domains use their domain powers and spells at +1 caster level. This trait does not give piantas early access to level-based powers; it only affects powers that they could already use without this trait.
Pianta Race Traits (Swords and Wizardry)
  • Emotional: When making a saving throw against an emotion-based effect, a pianta must roll twice and take the worst result.
  • Plant: A pianta may spend an action to bury itself in soft ground (dirt, bog, sand=ok; stone, wood, metal=no). While planted, a pianta can do nothing except unplant itself, but enemies treat its AC as 2 lower (or 2 higher if using ascending AC).
  • Chuckster: Piantas receive +1 on attack rolls with thrown weapons.
 Pianta Race Traits (5th Edition--Sure, I'll give it a go)
  • Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 2 and your Wisdom by 1.
  • Size: Your size is Medium.
  • Speed: You have a walking speed of 25 feet.
  • Plant: You can spend an action to plant yourself into the ground. While in the ground, you can do nothing but unplant yourself (a move), but people attacking you have disadvantage.
  • Chuckster: You have proficiency with all thrown weapons.
  • Natural Ties: You have proficiency in the Nature skill.
  • Emotional: You have disadvantage on any saving throw against an effect that manipulates your emotions. As long as your character can find something to be happy about, you can gain advantage on any one roll once per day.


In case you haven't guessed, I've been playing a lot of Super Mario Sunshine lately.


100 Plot Elements from Harry Potter

1. A band of young, miscreant druids who use their shape-shifting powers to cause trouble.
2. A gossip-obsessed bard, who is unconcerned with the accuracy of her tales, only the drama.
3. A dark, ancient artifact that can only be passed to a new wielder if they have bested the previous wielder.
4. Slaves who punish themselves mercilessly for the slightest disobedience.
5. A seer with a history of crazy, inaccurate prophecies and one important, accurate one.
6. A dark room guarded by floating brains.
7. A spell to turn someone's boogers into bats.
8. An animated map, showing the real-time locations and names of anyone in the location.
9. A foul-tasting potion that makes the drinker look like another person.
10. A well-liked king, killed by one of his most trusted servants.
11. A lich with seven phylacteries.
12. A living being used as a phylactery.
13. A friendly man, obsessed with taking care of incredibly dangerous monsters.
14. Twin wizards who sell magical items useful in practical jokes.
15. A dungeon filled with green light, beneath a lake.
16. A man who can speak to snakes.
17. Hordes of zombies waiting to feed from the bottom of a dark lake.
18. A magical horse that can only be seen by someone who has witnessed someone die.
19. A potion that regrows bones, albeit painfully.
20. A spell to make the target vomit up slugs.
21. A simple goatherder, who is actually the king's brother in hiding.
22. A curtain through which people pass, but do not return.
23. A carriage, enchanted to fly.
24. Zealot racists who violently oppose any form of half-breed.
25. A well-loved public figure, who practiced dark necromancy in the past.
26. A house which can only be seen if the owner tells you.
27. A inconspicuous, apparently non-magical item which teleports anyone who touches it.
28. A group of militant child rebels.
29. A werewolf finding companionship in a cabal of druids.
30. A powerful public official, secretly under the effect of complusionary magic. 
31. A goblin-made sword, with the ability to take on a aspect of anything with which it comes into contact.
32. A forest full of talking, man-sized spiders.
33. A shady character in a tavern, who wants to trade a dragon egg for important information.
34. A witch who makes jewelry out of vegetables.
35. A trio of artifacts, taken from Death itself.
36. A sweet which, when eaten, will make the eater's tongue the size of a cow.
37. Two wardrobes, connected to the same extradimensional space, allowing travel between them.
38. A centaur astronomer.
39. A petty ghost, liable to break into a tantrum at the slightest provocation.
40. A man with five names.
41. A passage hidden among the roots of a cranky treant.
42. A necklace which makes the wearer extremely irritable.
43. A message which is only intelligible underwater.
44. A friendly giant with no sense of personal space.
45. A club of influential young men and women.
46. A greasy-haired potion-maker with seemingly dark and powerful connections.
47. A school for magical dueling.
48. A powerful antidote, made from the tears of a phoenix.
49. A demiplane which contains whatever a person needs most.
50. A gruff inquisitor with a crazy eye.
51. A room full of hundreds of keys; only one of them works on the locked door.
52. A basilisk, hiding in the sewers.
53. A witch who can turn into her own familiar.
54.  A powerful wizard with a love of sweets.
55. Two wizards in love, forced to fight to the death.
56. A message delivered by owl.
57. A large, black dog; said to be a omen of untimely death.
58. A dungeon with passages that rearrange themselves at random.
59. An insane man, who can pull flowers out of his anus.
60. A tasty looking dessert, which actually tastes like earwax.
61.  Slaves who can only be freed by the act of receiving clothes from their masters.
62. A spellbook, filled with "shortcuts" to make spells more effective.
63. A hippogriff, condemned to death.
64. A prison filled with wraiths.
65. An animated painting/secret door, which only opens if given the right password.
66. A holiday festival, interrupted by a troll.
67. A man who uses magic to fish.
68. A warning message, delivered by a conjured animal.
69. An acclaimed hero, whose accomplishments are nothing but lies.
70. A sickly, old rat who knows the secret to a murder committed long ago.
71. A cultist with a metal hand.
72. A snake disguised as a woman.
73. An international spellcasting tourney.
74. A crest belonging to an order of eccentric knights, searching for old relics.
75. A garden filled with disruptive, dim-witted gnomes.
76. A man with a face on both sides of his head.
77. A deadly underground plant which fears sunlight.
78. A table of potions in a dungeon; some of them are helpful, some deadly.
79. An escaped serial killer, related to one of the PCs.
80. A merciless werewolf bounty hunter.
81. An decrepit manor, full of evil magic.
82. A devoted cultist with a craving for murder and dark-humored showmanship.
83. An illusionary stair.
84. A nation in which non-magic users are second-class citizens.
85. A castle visible only to those who stand on its grounds.
86. A scar that speaks.
87. The friendly ghost of a beheaded man.
88. A man hiding as a piece of furniture.
89. A monster that takes on the appearance of the greatest fear of whoever looks at it. Can only be killed by genuine laughter.
90. A vault enchanted so that anything touched inside duplicates endlessly into worthless copies.
91. A wedding crashed by cultists.
92. A ghoul trapped in the attic of an inn.
93. A secret passage used as a trysting place.
94. Giant lobsters with explosive butts.
95. A duel in a pumpkin patch.
96. A basin used to watch memories.
97. Something hidden under a turban.
98. Seven identical wizards, flying through the night.
99. A child who uses his developing magical powers to torture animals and other children.
100. A seemingly normal, cat-loving woman who is evil incarnate.


Dwerfater: the Literal Mountain God of Dwarves

Dwerfater is a mountain. This is not a metaphor, nor is it a murky metaphysical concept. He is literally a mountain. A mountain of mythical size and nature, no doubt, but a physical mountain none the less. He birthed the dwarven race from his own bowels (and as a result, some theologians argue that he should be Dwermater,  but the god seems unconcerned with definitions of gender).

At some point in their lives, every dwarf sets out on a pilgrimage (called the Last Path) to find the Dwerfater, and join him in a Valhalla-like afterlife. The Dwerfater appears in a different place to each pilgrim, so such journeys usually take up years or even centuries. Because of the length of such journeys, dwarves often set out long before they are ready to die. Sometimes, the Dwerfater appears in a mountain range, but just as often he appears in the middle of a jungle, sea, or even city. Some dwarves find him accidently, and many never find him at all. In this sense, every dwarf adventurer is a pilgrim searching for the Dwerfater, whether they know it or not.

When you see the Dwerfater, you'll know it deep in your stones.

The Dwerfater is a disinterested god. He does not meddle in the affairs of other deities so long as his creations are surviving, mining, sailing, and adventuring. Although adventuring and sailing are the two most glorious professions for the faithful of the Mountain God, mining and forging also hold a sacred place. In doing so, a dwarf is acting in the image of his creator--taking from the bowels of the earth and creating something from it. Prayers to the Dwerfater are the rhythmic percussions of picks, hammers, and feet.

Those who see the Dwerfater are rarely seen from again. The original duergar are an exception. They were dwarves who had ascended the Dwerfater, only to be sent back down. It is said this happened because the duergar used slaves to mine for them, instead of acting themselves in the image of the Mountain Talked to Bob and he said it may be Tuesday before he can get there. I gave him your number so he'll probably be getting in touch with you..

Clerics of the Dwerfater have many traditions which seem strange to outsiders. They fear canyons, and refuse to pass over the side of one. They do not take off their shoes or traveling packs when they sleep, so that in case they might wake and see the Dwerfater they could set out immediately. They view entering through the same doorway twice as bad luck, for surely this would mean moving away from the Mountain God instead of towards him. Whether the Dwerfater cares for these traditions or not is unclear. Clerics of the Dwerfater are likely to be early-to-bed-early-to-rise types, and have eyes constantly squinted towards the horizon.


The concept of Dwerfater comes from my friend and fellow GM, Brandon Wright. Although I've added my own flavors, the central ideas are his.


A Sample of Witch Familiars

Inspired by this post and this one.

1. A raven who acts as a mouthpiece for any dead body it perches on.
2. A sheep which starts as a lamb in the morning, and dies at night as a shaggy, ancient ram, only to be born anew the next morning.
3. A snake which can turn into a silent, old crone at will.
4. A demon lord powerlessly bound in the body of a fetus.
5. A small imp who can recite lore about any dead creature it eats.
6.  A mummified hand which tries to strangle those who sleep near it.
7. The spirit of a deceased ascetic, reincarnated into the body of a frog.
8. A fox who can smell any child within a day's travel.
9. An ancient bronze tablet which displays secrets from beyond the stars during new moons.
10. A cat who burrows himself into dead children to control them like puppets.


A Wooded and Noble Class Pt. 2: The E6 Gaelic Witch

Continuing the series on the classes of my E6 psuedo-Gaelic campaign. Read more about it here.

Gaelic Witch
The witch is the worker of magics that are subtle, deceitful, and weird. A blindness/deafness cast by a saint might blind the target with a bright, searing shaft of light from the sky, or deafen them with fanfare of angelic trumpets. The same spell cast by a witch, however, might blind someone by turning their eyelids into long, droopy flesh-curtains, or deafen someone with the constant whispers of the dead.

A witch gets her powers from a Hellcrown. All the Hellcrowns (one for each witch patron) are malignant, fickle, and abstruse. To enter into a pact with a Hellcrown, a witch must either be an active and devout worshiper of her Hellcrown, or make a deal with one (which means repaying the debt at some point. And Hellcrowns take debts very seriously.) Each night the witch's familiar disappears and travels to the witch's patron Hellcrown; in the morning, the familiar returns with spells for the witch. A displeased Hellcrown will never refuse to give a witch spells for the day, but would gleefully twist the spells into warped versions with undesirable consequences.

Custom Witchery
These changes to the witch are mostly non-mechanical. To make up for it, have some witch spells--one of each level.

Door Speak
School divination
Level witch 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components Verbal
Range personal
Target touch
Duration 1 min./level
Door speak allows you to speak with doors. You can use this ability to persuade, trick, or bully doors into doing things for you (such as unlocking or locking, slamming in someone’s face, or sharing information about what’s on the other side). When you do so, roll your Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate (whichever is appropriate) plus your witch level against the Disable Device DC of the door (unlocked doors have a DC of 10, unlocked but stuck doors have a DC of 15). 

A door’s personality may effect what you can get from it. Newly constructed doors may be flighty, while a door in an ancient tomb is likely to be stubborn. Illusionary doors are often deceitful, and trapdoors are likely to pompous or submissive (depending on their physical relation to you).

School abjuration
Level witch 2
Casting Time 10 minutes
Components Verbal, Somatic, Focus (two bracelets of hair)
Range touch
Duration 1 week/level
Saving Throw Will (see text); Spell Resistance no
You take a length of hair from two willing target creatures, and weave them into two bracelets. After the spell is cast, you give each target one of the bracelets. If a target wearing one of the bracelets attempts to do harm (physical, mental, or social; directly or indirectly) to the other, they must make a Will save. If they succeed on the Will save, they are unable to complete the harmful action. If they fail the Will save, the harm that the action would have caused instead happens to the doer of the action. For example, if one of the targets attempted to stab the other and succeeded on their save, they would move to stab them, but be unable to follow through with the blow. If they failed the save, they would instead stab themself.
Only the wearer of a hair-trust-bond bracelet can remove it. If another tries, it immediately regrows on the wearer’s wrist. Removing a bracelet allows the target without a bracelet to be harmed by the other target, but not vice versa.

Dance of the Dead
School necromancy
Level witch 3
Casting Time 10 minutes
Components Verbal, Somatic, Material (a fiddle worth 500 gp and a communion wafer soaked in blood)
Range touch
Target dead creature touched
Duration instantaneous
Dance of the dead brings a semblance of life back to a dead body. During the casting of this spell, you play the fiddle and dance about the body of the deceased. At the completion of the spell, you jump over the body three times; after the third jump, the creature returns to life.

A creature raised with this spell is only a shell of its old self. Each of its mental scores are dropped to 2. It cannot speak. The creature acts upon base instincts (hunger, thirst, lust) and simplified versions of its old habits in life (a hero-warrior might attempt to fight anything that moves, while a drunk might down any liquid in sight).