Archons, part 1

Back on the horse!

Speaking of which, Archons surprised me because I had forgotten how many of them exhibited theriocephaly. I mean, I knew Hound archons had dog heads, but Wardens have grizzly heads and Tome Archons have hawk heads. Wasn't that the Guardinals' schtick, too? Why do so many of the forces of good go all animally? I don't know. I don't know.


* The PCs, neophyte adventurers, are approached by a very enthusiastic Lantern Archon who isn't very good at its job of guiding people, yet.
* The PCs, neophyte adventurers, are approached by a Lantern Archon who is decent at its job, except that it only speaks in metaphors and parables, more than a little confusingly, and doesn't relent even if the PCs misinterpretations of its 'advice' is getting them into trouble.
* The PCs hear rumors that a suspicious number of neophyte adventurers are having troubles with Lantern Archons on the slopes of Mount Celestia. Investigation eventually turns out there's a Baatezu with a magical device that allows it to "fake" the telepathic orders from Hound Archons that Lantern Archons occasionally receive, giving them plausible if unhelpful orders like "Honor untested is merely innocence" or "Help them cultivate strength by leading them into a situation where they must struggle against adversity!"


* Hound archons feed on anything, but they prefer to subsist on gifts of food offered to them by visitors. The PCs don't know this, and unrealizingly snub a Hound Archon: soon enough, all the other archons are giving them a cold shoulder, and they need to figure out where they offended and make reparations.
* The villagers have heard tales of a werewolf at large in the countryside, and are organizing a mob with torches and pitchforks (with bits of silverware tied to the prongs, presumably). It is, of course, a fallen Hound Archon, without access to its spell-like abilities, which would very much like to seek redemption but suspects that fighting a bunch of mislead and well-meaning farmers isn't the way.
* A Hound Archon offers to escort the PCs to where they're going in Mount Celestia, but keeps a very watchful eye on the PCs. This might rankle some of them, which makes the Hound even more suspcious.

* "Warden archons are never surprised - at least, on Mount Celestia. Since they've never been encountered beyond that plane's borders, it's still dark as to whether they can be surprised elsewhere." A wealthy sage will pay dearly for an the adventuring party that can abduct a Warden archon, take it beyond the plane's borders, and see if it can be surprised or not. Without hurting it, of course, the sage isn't Evil or anything.
* Wardens protect the portals between Mt Celestia's layers, including preventing Lanterns from traveling upwards except on official business. One Lantern would very much like to see an old friend who has progressed higher along the mountain's slopes, and implores the PCs if they might help it skirt the Wardens just this once.
* Wardens can cast any divination spell of 4th level or lower. The PCs are in need of a very obscure divination spell for some reason. The trick is, of course, that Wardens, like all Archons, aren't interested in gold or magic items, so the PCs will have to convince a Warden that it's actually in the interests of the greatest good to help them out.


Fun fact: writing up this entry, the fingers of my left hand were accidentally one key to the right, and thus I got "svhsirtsi" instead. That'd be a fun monster name, I think. Perhaps some kind of evil hippo-creature?

Achaierai, on the other hand, are 15' tall intelligent evil birds with four legs. There's not much too them, except the manner of their introduction: a scene from a play written based on the true account of an elven ornithologist named Fiona Silverbane who was captured after being discovered dissecting one of them (she didn't know they were intelligent at the time) and tortured in reprisal. For centuries. (As a fun note: achaierai only live for 30 years ago, which means she was literally handed down for generations.) When Fiona Silverbane escaped, she published what she had learned, and then went insane, thinking that her entire "escape" was just a ploy on the part of the evil birds to break her. "C. Emmet Runn" (yes, really), the "mindsmith" in the insane asylum she was committed to, decided to write a play based on her experiences called "Achaierophobia", which is now considered a classic on the plane of Acheron where said birds most commonly live.

Nothing else in the entry tops that piece of backstory. A bit on migrations, and how they've domesticated rust dragons, but really, the play's the thing.

* The PCs encounter and handily slay a rust dragon on Acheron, just another wandering monster encounter, yeah? Except, of course, it was the "pet" of a nearby flock of Achaierai. The birds are smart and vengeful enough to not go after the PCs directly, but rather, by stalking and observing them for a while, attack the things (and people) the PCs care for, instead.
* An ornithologist wishes to study one of the rare Achaierai migrations between two of the cubes of Acheron. Wary of the birds' evil reputation, as well as the deadly nature of Acheron itself, he hires some protection in the form of the PCs.
* A flock of Achaierai hear about the Achaierophobia play for the first time, and aren't happy. The PCs somehow end up with the gig of protecting Runn from the birds, but the playwright/mindsmith refuses to lay low... in fact, he's got a command performance of that very play to set up, for a fairly prestigious noble!

Viper Tree

Viper trees are pretty straightforward in concept, too. They're trees with snakes instead of branches. Part fiend, part reptile, part plant, all hungry. They've also got a rudimentary intelligence, although they only speak the language of Tanar'ri, and crudely at that, it does make parlay possible.

The best part of the entry stems from that: the "Ecology" section is presented as a summary of the results of a Harmonium poll to determine the dietary preferences of carnivorous plants. By going and asking them. It's another one of those awesome moments that you can really only see in the Planescape setting.

* The original study was flawed by an insufficient sample size for necessary statistical rigour! The Harmonium is hiring capable and daring adventurers to go ask the questions of as many Viper Trees as they can find. If none of them speak Tanar'ri, they get saddled with a ludicrously vulnerable translator, too.
* An old friend was conscripted into the Blood War, and fell in battle. The PCs want to find his body, possibly for proper burial, possibly for resurrection, but there's of course a problem: there's already a large grove of Viper Trees going in the now blood-rich soil.
* Legends speak of a grove of viper trees that managed to fell a small traveling clutch of Mind-Flayers, and gained increased intelligence from the feast, which passed on to their offspring. A sage studying social structures of polycephalic entities wants the PCs to find this grove (wherever it may lie in the infinite layers of the Abyss), and escort him there. One good question to ask might be, exactly how smart are they?

And that's it for the Planes of Chaos monstrous supplement! Stay tuned! I'm going to try to blow through the Planes of Law one at an increased pace as well before slowing it down for the Planescape Monstrous Compendium II.

Varrangoin (Abyssal Bat)

Abyssal bats, now in six delicious flavors!

Type I (Rykso): Cold!
Type II (Riptyce): Fiery!
Type III (Corteel): Electrified!
Type IV (Caid): Acidic!

Type V (beserking!) and Type VI (spellcasting!) are "greater varrangoin", with significantly greater power and intelligence. Their true names are kept secret lest they be used against them.

* A wizard attempting to summon a "Type III demon" accidentally gets several Corteel Varrangoin instead. The perils of using these poorly translated ancient grimories from the Prime Material Plane. While his wards and bindings would have been fine against a Glabrezu, they were ironically useless against a flock of lightning-bolt-breathing hell-bats, and now he needs some PCs to help clear out his tower.
* The ritual scarification of dots, curves and lines all varrangoin have are believed to form the spellbooks in the case of the greater varrangoin spellcasters. An eclectic geometer-wizard wants to expand his understanding of spell-encoding, and thus hires the PCs to capture several of these spellcasting monsters (with a significant bonus for any captured alive)... but in addition to the abilities of a 9th level wizard, they've got significant spell-like abilities including but not limited to dispel magic, polymorph self, and polymorph other. And there's the annoying fact that they're fairly hard to tell from every other kind of Abyssal bat.
* Lesser varrangoin collect treasure they find pretty: gems, jewelry. Unfortunately, the woman complaining about her stolen brooch is actually a tanar'ri in disguise, hoping the PCs will find a few decent nests in their quest for it that it can force into magical servitude.

Tanar'ri, Greater - Goristro

Goristro are the giant 20'+ living siege engines of the blood war, big stupid brutes whose key ability is "take piles of damage" and "dish it out". Besides that fairly simple and basic concept, there's a few excellent little tidbits about them.

One of these is the existence of "goristro citadels", which are platforms strapped to the head and shoulders of the goristro, much like a howdah, from which higher-ranking tanar'ri can surveil and command battles. That's awesome, and I know I overuse the word, but still. If I ever have a planescape character from whom it becomes relevant, they're going to want one of those. I mean, there's logistical, and ethical, concerns with having a two-story-tall carnivorous demon steed, but you still have to admit that's a style that just can't be beat.

The other interesting detail is that goristro breeding isn't done naturally, but rather "they are carefully mated by their owners after extensive negotiations". Goristro breeding is evidently a big deal, with a lot of underhanded skulduggery and betrayal going own with these arrangements, involving slaying the other side's goristro or stealing the young or such things. So it's like dog breeding, only with giant two-story-tall carnivorous demons, and it's also being run by other demons. Sweet.

* If the PCs are the sort who work with tanar'ri, reward their open-minded tolerance with an offer of employment overseeing and securing a "negotiations of a delicate matter and the resulting proceedings". It will, of course, mean they'll be watching over two goristro mating. And yes, there will be foul play. Okay, this one's kind of immature and comedic, but with plenty of potential for old school violent action regardless.
* The PCs raid a slain Baatezu's treasure vault, and find several old war trophies: including a few goristro collars and wrist bands. Of course, once the wards of the vault are broken, the bands' functions as magical trackers become active again, alerting their former masters as to their location right as the PCs carry their new ostentatiously bejeweled loot away.
* A retired adventurer recalls an old fancy: owning a personal goristro citadel. He's quite wealthy now, of course, enough to hire some young up and coming heroes to do the dirty and bothersome work of capturing a goristro alive ("The bigger, the better!") and transporting it to an already purchased plot of land in the Outlands where he'll build his 'stable'. Piece of cake, yeah?

Tanar'ri, Lesser - Armanite

Time to get back on the horse! Or the undead demon centaur thingy, as the case may be. And coincidentally, that brings us to our next entry: the Armanite! Who are, if you couldn't tell, undead demon centaur thingies.

Wait. No. I missed a bit the first read: "Some breeds of armanite are more kangaroolike in their nonhuman half." That. That's fantastic. Screw "some breeds", in any game I run that's going to be the default. Pale undead kangaroo-centaur demons, with bristling spines and fluted black armor! Played completely with a straight face. Yes. See, that's what I love about this project. It's amazing the little details you can miss in these entries unless you really do sit down and read the entire thing, word for word. Obviously I spent over half my childhood just skimming these things, which is the only explanation for why I don't remember half of these awesome little tidbits. Alas!

One odd thing that jumps out at me from the entry is a note that Armanites are "mercenaries" of the Blood War. "They serve their master well but expect plunder in return", which is kind of funny, because I was under the impression that all Tanar'ri had a sort of "serve in the Blood War or experience horrible fiery death at the hands of the Balor sort of job incentive structure going on. Maybe the armanites simply have a lot of chutzpah? "Yeah, give us loot and the tasty, delicious souls of our fallen enemies, or we'll walk off the battlefield. And yeah, you'll kill us all, but then you'll be killing us and not those devil bastards. Wouldn't that be a pity?"

There's quite a bit of information as well about Armanite society. It's a bit impressive that they have one at all, given that most other tanar'ri are kind of "Yeah, they're just another part of the nameless and unspeakable hordes of the abyss", but no, armanites have gender-segregated towns and everything. They even give you the names of every single "male" town. The female towns are actually mobile, and while they have names, they change their name every time they move. So that's kind of cool.

(If you're curious: Amber, Basalt, Bloodstone, Bone, Clay, Cold Iron, Dark Spring, Gray Glass, Jade, Mageblood, Maroon, Obsidian, Ochre, Oxblood, Purpure, Silver Spike, and Steelshank.)

* "The banner is the symbol and unifying principle of each warband; without it, the armanites feud among themselves and soon their group falls apart." An Abyssal Lord, through several intermediaries and proxies, seeks to hire the PCs to steal or destroy the banner of a warband of armanites serving one of his rivals.
* An armanite devours the soul of a friend of the PCs, which most sages agree renders the person in question unresurrectable. One priest believes it might be possible, if they capture the armanite in question before an entirely hypothetical "digestion period" takes place. The one problem is that the armanite in question was female, and they'll have to track the mobile town's path through the various horrible layers of the Abyss to find her.
* The normally rarer marsupial breed of Armanites have been appearing in relatively greater numbers, while the equine ones have been noticeably dwindling. A dangerously curious sage hires the PCs to figure out what's going on with that, and gives them information on a portal leading directly to Cold Iron to start their investigation.


Ratatosk lives in the old world tree,
Merry old king of the Ash is he,
Laugh, Ratatosk, laugh, Ratatosk,
Gay your life must be

As a wise man once said, "I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul." Don't judge me.

* Someone has been stealing the "enormous, sterile seed pods of Yggdrasil" that the ratatosk collect. They're unable to track down the thief, and need to implore outside help such as the PCs... of course, the question of why they're being stolen is a mystery that might intrigue certain individuals as well.
* A venerable silver-furred ratatosk knows the information the PCs seek, and his price is fairly simple: a riddle he hasn't heard before. Or a good insult. Do you have any of those?
* It's a cold and dark winter's night on Yggdrasil, and the PCs set up camp. Unfortunately, the local ratatosk tribe takes very poorly to even the most carefully controlled fires lit on the world-tree. Getting a good night's sleep will be complicated.


Oreads are to mountains what Dryads are to forests.

It's kind of fun to look at the wikipedia article on "nymphs", as Greek Mythology is chock full of these kind of nature spirits. Fountain nymphs! Ivy nymphs! Honey Bees nymphs! Kind of makes you wonder about razorvine nymphs or portal nymphs or such, for a more planescapey feel. Hmmm.

Anyway. Oreads have the predictable spell-like abilities (stone shape, stone tell, stoneskin, meld with stone), and one less predictable one called "song of stone", which magically charms anyone who hears it (and fails a saving throw) for a year, requiring unusually strong magic (limited wish or holy word) to break.

There's also "snowhairs", old and powerful Oreads who have cut ties to individual mountains and protect entire ranges. They pack a bit more of a punch, including spelllike abilities such as earthquake, animate rock, part stone, and a petrifying touch that turns people into boulders (requiring both stone shape and stone to flesh to fix).

* An Oread's pet snow leopard has wandered off, and she can't leave the mountain to go find it. She'd be very grateful to any adventurers who could find and retrieve him, although the favor of an Oread is a somewhat tricky to cash in, it'd definitely be a nice thing to do.
* "Unlike dryads, [oreads] are not vulnerable to the death of their mountain - after all, a mountain cannot die - but they are pained by mining, deforestation, and magical erosion." A Doomguard factotum, seeking to gain prestige and influence with his faction, decides to really test that "mountains cannot die" theory, hiring a slew of talented elementalists and a small clan of dwarven miners to get to work. The PCs might get hired as well and have to defend the miners from an increasing angry Oread (if not the local snowhair when things progress), or they might decide to come to the Oread's assistance, depending on their proclivities.
* The Greater Titans have hatched a cunning plan to assassinate the seven snowhair oreads that guard Mount Olympus. The Greek Gods could fix the problem themselves, but they'd also probably show favor to any mortal who solved it for them. Of course, the snowhairs have important jobs to do and aren't going to all sit cowering in a cave: the PCs will probably be stretched pretty thin protecting them as they go about their mountain-range-spanning business.


8' large beetles of Pandemonium with one interesting property: they take on some of the appearances of whatever it was they last ate each time they molt. Not enough to disguise themselves, mind you, for example "Having eaten a horse, the murska's carapace gradually molts to reveal the dapple-grqay hide of a horse beneath, stretched awfully over the cursed insect's shell." As it gets hungrier, the new skin sheds to reveal the "true" form beneath.

Another interesting thing is that, while normally mindless hungry insects, if they eat something sentient, they take on the intelligence and memories, although not spells or skills/proficiencies or whatnot. But some murska deliberately seek out intelligence once they've tasted its fruits, building "larders" of sentient victims to feed upon when they use up their current skin.

* There's a Murska in Sigil who offers the criminal element a simple deal: give it somebody intelligent to eat, it'll tell you any of that person's secrets you care to know. Cheaper than hiring a psion or diviner by far, if you're callous about the sanctity of human life, but we are talking about the criminal element here. Business is going well until a friend of one of the PCs ends up in the beast's semisecret larder.
* The PCs, exploring Pandemonium, lose a few henchman. Until they come back, skin stretched tightly over insectile form. Right after the Murska have fed, the nature of that which they fed upon is still strong, and the murska aren't looking for a fight, they just want "their" old jobs back, and protection from the dark and scary twists and turns of Pandemonium. But as time passes, the insectile instincts grow stronger and stronger, unless the PCs can find some way to magically halt the reversion process. Or they could just kill the insects before that happens, but then they'll have to listen to cries of "No, master! Don't kill me! Please, I'm sorry!" and such. Because you, the GM, are an asshole, as well as interested in exploring philosophical questions of the nature of identity.
* "Revolutionary League legend holds that the beasts are the spirits of their lost brethren, forever assuming the identity of others. Desperate Anarchists sometimes bring their concerns to the "revolutionaries who have been" in hopes the god-beetles will grant them aid." There's any number of ways to use that, but let's up the ante a little bit. An extremist sect of the Anarchists wants to try something both hideously blasphemous and a phenomenally bad idea: feeding a Murska some bits taken from a dead god's corpse in the Astral. The PCs hear wind from the plan by somebody sympathetic with ties to the cult, unwilling to act personally against them, but worried about the potentially catastrophic consequences such an action might have.


The entry for lillendi is big and juicy, full of obvious hooks and interesting quirky details. I think the difference between them and, say, the last entry, is that they're intelligent. Being able to assign desires and motivations and unique social behaviors really goes a long way towards being able to use a "monster" for something other than "the monster is menacing innocents!" or "somebody hires you to kill one for various reasons!".

But, yes. Lillendi. Talented artists (to the point of having the various and sundry abilities of a 7th level bard), defenders of the wilderness, servants to the gods of the moon, etc, etc. They come in both male and female (true to D&D's nature, the only artwork I've ever seen for them has been female, so I was actually a bit surprised at the male bit) but, interestingly, reproduce via parthenogenesis: even those who appear, act, and identify as male are, technically speaking, biologically female.

There's a few other cool bits. A lillendi can choose the hour of her or his death, called the Silent Hour, during which they fight with a "calm, focused fury" (automatically winning initiative, +4 to attack rolls, double damage), and at the end of the hour (or earlier if they die during it) they dissipate into mist, as well as a combined moonbeam/chaos spell. If they die by accident without having entered the Silent Hour, it's viewed as a horrible tragedy by other lillendi, as this death means their essence is unjoined with the power they serve.

There's also a bit about lillendi social status: it's determined by "a simple system of initiations into mysteries and the ownership of certain totem masks". So, basically, a culture of secret societies: something I can totally get behind. Masks, music, magic, mysteries, and the moon. A lot to work with.

* Legend says that the lillendi long ago served the Powers of Law, but abandoned said service, and now serve the gods of the moon instead. A sage will pay the PCs handsomely if they can discover why.
* A group of settlers seek to build a new home in Ysgard. Unfortunately, the local lillendi, who consider the area their territory but haven't marked it very well, discover the settlement after the settlers have set up their new homes. It's a bit too late for them to move on and select a new place, and the conflict is on the cusp of violence when the PCs stumble upon it.
* A lillend is tricked by a Baatezu into fearing for her life enough to enter the Silent Hour prematurely. She implores the first people she stumbles across (the PCs, obviously) to deliver her mask, flute, and scimitar to her sisters and brothers of her secret society (which, naturally, will have a lot of questions about how the PCs got such effects, if the PCs can even find them.) And getting some revenge on the devil in question would be nice as well, if the PCs can manage it.