Welcome to the third installment of Everyman Gaming’s GM’s Guide articles. In this GM’s Guide, we’ll be talking about monsters. Specifically, my Top 10 Favorite Monsters.
That’s right folks; today starts Day One of my super-special birthday week! Huzzah! For our first article for my birthday week, I’ve compiled a list of my Top Ten favorite monsters from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game as well as a brief description of what I love about these monsters. This list was actually fairly challenging to put together, believe it or not; I had to do a lot of thinking in order to get it together. And before you start guessing, no creature that can be used as a player race will be on this list. That means the kitsune aren’t going to hold my #1 spot, though even if I did allow PC races the kitsune probably wouldn’t be any higher than #10, if that. I don’t frequently throw kitsune as enemies at my players.
Without any further adieu, Alex’s Top Ten Pathfinder Roleplaying Game monsters!
#10 – Pipefox (Bestiary 4)
This is a creature that I love specifically for its appearance. The artwork that Paizo commissioned for the pipefox is some of my favorite in the game. I typically don’t use pipefoxes as enemies; they’re familiars and advisers first and foremost. They fit the “wizard’s familiar” niche perfectly because of their enthusiasm for lore, which makes them even more compelling as familiar choices. In essence, their racial attitude gives them a great predisposition for servitude as a familiar because the relation gives mutual benefit to both wizard and familiar. One idea that I’ve always wanted to do is the magus with a familiar who takes the transformative familiar mythic ability to transform his pipefox into a sword of some kind; the body straightens out, fur turns into blade, and its little head turns into the sword’s pommel. The imagery is really cool, making the pipefox my absolute favorite Improved Familiar and earning it a solid spot on my Top Ten list.
#9 – Bodak (Bestiary 2)
This CR 8 extraplanar undead is one of the nastiest undead for its level. Able to blast foes with negative levels as often as it pleases, bodaks are truly terrifying to fight when they’re challenging (CR +4) or even at the appropriate CR because your PCs likely do not have the spells or monetary resources to deal with the large number of negative levels that the bodak can easily smack them with. The vulnerability to sunlight can be a huge drawback, but most GMs aren’t going to throw them in a place where sunlight is common and few PCs ever prepare daylight or carry sunrods with them. On top of that, it has DR that can only be overcome by cold iron, which is often ignored by PCs because of the expense of making such an item magical.
#8 – Carnivorous Blob (Bestiary 2)
Alright folks, I’m going to be honest on this one: I’ve never actually used this monster against my PCs. It’s been used against me. We’ve never actually fought a carnivorous blob, but these monsters are the centerpiece of one of my friend’s campaigns that we’re in. In this campaign, a mad wizard created a series of remote scrying pools using carnivorous blobs as the foci. Essentially, we can pour blood or flesh into such a pool and use divination magic at a drastically expanded range if the target of our divination correlations to the blood/flesh we’ve fed to the ooze. It’s an amazingly cool idea that sold me on these creatures before I even looked at the statblock. And then we considered trying to destroy one out of necessity. Our Level 8 PCs did tons of research on carnivorous blobs and came to the realization that these things are more dangerous than a sharknado. They instantly devour anything they touch, they split slashed and are resistant to all other forms of damage. They’re wicked fast and as large as houses. These things are terror incarnate and if built up the way my GM built them for us they’re bound to create memorable adversaries for all groups of PCs.
#7 – The Thriae (Bestiary 3)
These guys are on my list for purely selfish reasons. In my campaign setting, a transitory demiplane called Arbotha connects the Material Plane, the Fey Realms, and the Shadow Plane. As it’s name suggests, Arbortha is a massive tree fashioned similarly to the portal hub in The Secret World. It’s branches reach into the heavens, opening portals across the Fey Realms while its roots burrow deep into the Plane of Shadows. And living amidst its branches are the thriae; bee folk from Bestiary 3. Exclusively female, the thriae in my campaign use portals that lead into all three planes to capture males and bring them back to their hive-cities (suspended from Arbortha’s branches) for reproduction purposes. They’re also the guardians of Arbortha and have mastered the World Tree’s ancient magics for their own divination purposes. So while the Bestiary entry is pretty open-ended on who and what the thriae are, they’re on this list because of my own adaptations to their racial fluff. I can do that on this list, right? Right?
#6 – Graveknights (Bestiary 3)
Is this cheating because it’s a template, not a monster? Maybe, but I don’t care! Graveknights are WICKED fun to throw at your PCs; take a look at my Arthas Menethil article on Iconic Design if you don’t believe me. The sheer amount of special abilities that graveknights gain in addition to standard class abilities is staggering and almost all of those special undead-boosting powers directly buff the graveknight himself. Thanks to the constant desecration, it’s very likely that even minor undead will be a threat to the PCs if they choose to ignore them. Personally, I think that antipaladin graveknights are most effective; they’re their own evil alters to dark gods! For added fun, make all of the graveknight’s minor undead minions plague zombies that explode when they die (see Bestiary 1)!
#5 – Mi-Go (Bestiary 4)
I’ve used this monster since it was first printed in the Carrion Crown AP, and let me tell you, it’s earned it’s spot on my favorites list a hundredfold. Not because it’s a difficult monster for players to fight or anything; it’s actually pretty tame. I like the eviscerate ability and sneak attack is always fun on a monster. Heck, grab combined with a flight speed is pretty awesome too and because of their starflight, they can literally descend down upon your PCs from the heavens if they’re just arriving; seeing a full invasion of these guys just falling down in the area the PCs are in can be utterly terrifying if described well. But what I REALLY love about these guys is their Item Creation ability. Not only can you outfit them with cool magic items, but you can make those magic items function as weird, extraterrestrial technology. A wand of scorching ray becomes a hundred times cooler if it’s actually a weird bug-like proboscis that oozes red puss.
#4 – Cthulhu / Hastur (Bestiary 4)
I honestly can’t choose between these Great Old Ones for fourth place. They’re both amazingly cool adaptations of themselves from the Lovecraft Mythos. James Jacobs himself lovingly crafted these monsters, and his painstaking detail in their powers makes his respect and Love for Lovecraft shine through. These monsters among the best in an already respectable Bestiary and are worthy of being campaign-enders with powers that include several auto-death abilities between the two of them. Why aren’t they higher on the list? They’re heavily campaign-specific and not every group is going to be able to fight them. If you want your players to fight Cthulhu, that needs to be a conscious choice on your part that needs to be alluded to and built up to over a span of levels/mythic tiers. But despite that, these guys are still awesome. And let’s be honest, any monster that gets the Void Domain released into the Core Rulebook line is great!
#3 – Hydras (Bestiary 1)
I think hydras are awesomely cool monsters. How neat is it to fight a massive, many-headed snake that belches acid at you? Hydras are some of the most iconic monsters in real-world mythology and they serve as cool threats to PCs at lower levels. I personally find hydras to be more effective than dragons because hydras have fewer player expectations placed upon them. There is a lot of character and morale baggage placed on dragons because they’re used so often in media. But hydras? Nobody ever does anything with hydras; the last time I saw a hydra in a mainstream media was Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and before that it was Kingdom Hearts. Hydras have all the badassery of dragons with none of the expectations; that makes them a win in my book!
#2 –Qlipploth in General (Varies; intro in Bestiary 2)
Of all of the evil outsiders, the Qlipploth are my favorite. I like that they’re evil unmolested my mortals. They’re an excellent reminder that evil has existed long before mortals did and will continue to do so. I love the angle that they’re basically the loosing side in a fiendish lore and seek to remedy the problem with violence. If you really stop to think about it, the qlipploth could potentially want the same thing as the goodly outsiders: the end of mortal sin. But they can’t contemplate redemption, so they settle for genocide. They’re weird, depraved, and amazingly cool. I’m hoping that someday they get their own Book of the Damned entry from Paizo, but at the same time I love the angle that they loathe mortal worship because it turns them into what they hate most. All of these factors make qlipploth a blast to roleplay during combat. Qlipploth are a breath of fresh air compared to other “standard” evil outsider races and of the new types that Paizo has introduced, I feel like qlipploth fit best into the world’s cosmology.
#1 – The Colour Out of Space
This is my absolute favorite monster. It has story potential built right into it, which fans of my writing have seen me amidst my published works. It can transform otherwise ordinary folk into savage minions, which makes the adventure all the more terrifying for the PCs to behold. They’re not fighting dragons or demons; they’re fighting ordinary commoners that have been infected with some sort of horrible, otherworldly sickness. That’s some powerful stuff there and you can easily terrify an entire group of PCs into wondering if they’re catching the infection too. Because the Colour Out of Space’s draining ability functions at such a huge range, you can even start draining away your PC’s Charisma and Constitution from afar, making the encounter all the more difficult when they come face-to-face with the Colour Out of Space. And what a combat it is! It’s not common we get super intelligent oozes; the Colour is an exception, and it makes the enemy frighteningly difficult to fight. Between the incorporeal subtype and the ooze type, the colour out of space has defenses against EVERYTHING and there simply are not enough force effects to take advantage of its weakness. It’s a hard fight that you can easily make harder with my Challenging Encounters advice; well worthy of its spot as my #1 favorite monster.
And that’s it for my first Birthday Week article! What did you think of the article? Did you like my Top Ten choices? What are your Top Ten favorite monsters? Leave your comments and answers below and I’ll see you on Wednesday for more BIRTHDAY WEEK!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune birthday boy, and he could always use more Pathfinder Minis if you want to gift him for his birthday. You don’t actually have to do that, though.