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A Riddle Wrapped in Mystery

Friday, November 18, 2016


Illustration by Gintas Galvanauskas

Villain Codex is here! This week we're unveiling some of the hidden secrets of the last five remaining enigmatic organizations. Each one has its own mysteries and hidden agendas, either hiding in the shadows or in plain sight beneath another facade.

Secret Society

What could be more of an embodiment of secretive villain groups than a literal secret society? The group in this chapter maintains the facade of a harmless secret club for the wealthy and influential to engage in wild parties, but underneath is something far more sinister. Let's see if the High Talon, the group's official recruiter, can convince you to join the inner circle:

"Everyone who's anyone is, or was, a member, darling. I'm so glad you accepted our open invitation. We've had our minds on you for quite some time, you see, waiting for you to grow into the handsome young thing you've become. Now, see before you this quivering lowlife. Oh, yes, you once considered him your friend, I know. You must be pained to see him debased this way before you. But such is the natural order of things. He is weak, and you are strong. Do not consider this creature a person any longer. It is a base animal, and it is only right that you treat it as such. Show us exactly what such a simpering beast deserves. That's it! Yes, it's cowering now, so you can take your foot off its throat—it's already lost and the hunt hasn't even begun. Oh, we're going to have so much fun, my young friend. Take this—mind how sharp it is—a claw for you, my beauty, a claw to catch a mouse. See how it runs."

That's right, in secret, the society engages in hunts for the most dangerous game. But with a twist: these ailurophiles use magic to transform their victims into humanoid mice while hunting them in cat masks.

As the ritual commences, you can see the child leader of the organization, the Grand Dam, sitting on her throne. The society has three leaders: the High Sire, High Tom, and Grand Malkin. The High Sire is the Master of the Hunt and keeper of the Great Black Sphynx, the society's sacred beast and focus of many of its internal rites. The High Tom is Master of the Lodge, the public face of the society, and its primary vector of recruitment, propaganda, and internal control. The Grand Malkin is the Master of the Rites and holder of its occult mysteries and arcane methods. Despite having passed on several years ago, the Grand Malkin still jealously clings to power: his phantom is tethered to his granddaughter, known as the Grand Dam. The Grand Malkin's guidance has helped the Grand Dam become a powerful spiritualist early in life, and though he's a shade of his former self, he retains extensive knowledge of the society and guides the Grand Dam in the details of the society's tenets, organization, and sacred rituals.

Grand Dam

The Grand Dam is the anchor by which the Grand Malkin, a dead sorcerer, jealously clings to his leadership of the society.

Grand Dam CR 12

XP 19,200

Female young human spiritualist (haunted) 13 (Pathfinder RPG Occult Adventures 72, 110)

NE Small humanoid (human)

Init +2; Senses Perception +6

Defense

AC 23, touch 13, flat-footed 21 (+6 armor, +2 Dex, +4 shield, +1 size)

hp 90 (13d8+28)

Fort +9, Ref +8, Will +16 (+4 vs. mind-affecting effects)

Defensive Abilities greater spiritual interference


Illustration by Daniel Lopez

Offense

Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (good)

Melee mwk kukri +9/+4 (1d3-2/18-20)

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 13th; concentration +23)

At will—detect undead

2/day—calm spiritOA (DC 13)

1/day—see invisibility (10 min)

Spells Known (CL 13th; concentration +23)

5th (2/day)—dominate person (DC 21), shadow evocation (DC 23), telekinesis

4th (4/day)—entrap spiritOA (DC 20), greater invisibility, phantasmal killer (DC 22), possessionOA (DC 20), shadow conjuration

3rd (5/day)—bestow curse (DC 19), ectoplasmic snareOA (DC 19), fly, riding possessionOA, slow (DC 19), vampiric touch

2nd (7/day)—detect thoughts (DC 18), false life, invisibility, life pactACG, pilfering handUC, spectral hand

1st (7/day)—compel hostilityUC, obscuring mist, protection from law, psychic readingOA, sanctuary (DC 17), shield, ventriloquism (DC 19)

0 (at will)—detect psychic significanceOA, mage hand, message, open/close (DC 16), read magic, telekinetic projectileOA

Tactics

Before Combat The Grand Dam casts false life on herself and the Grand Malkin each day, and she casts fly and shield before summoning the Grand Malkin.

Base Statistics Without her spells in effect, the Grand Dam's statistics are hp 75 (13d8+13); AC 19, flat-footed 17; Skills Fly +11.

Statistics

Str 6, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 22, Cha 10

Base Atk +9; CMB +6; CMD 18

Feats Emotional ConduitOA, Focused PhantomOA, Greater Spell Focus (illusion), Phantom FortificationOA, Shared SoulOA, Skill Focus (Appraise, Bluff), Spell Focus (illusion), Spiritualist's CallOA, Toughness

Skills Appraise +10, Bluff +22, Disguise +10, Fly +21, Knowledge (arcana, planes) +18, Knowledge (nobility, religion) +10, Linguistics +6, Sense Motive +16, Spellcraft +10, Stealth +18, Use Magic Device +9

Languages Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Ignan

SQ bonded senses (at will), etheric tether, fused consciousness, phantom (Grand Malkin, jealousy), phantom recall 2/day, shared consciousness 1/day

Gear +2 chain shirt, mwk kukri, cloak of resistance +2, hat of disguise, headband of inspired wisdom +4, society ring†, Book of the Black Sphynx (see below)

Grand Malkin

Male phantom (Pathfinder RPG Occult Adventures 78)

NE Large outsider (phantom)

Init +9; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +15

Aura resentful aura (20 ft., DC 19)

Defense

AC 28, touch 14, flat-footed 23 (+5 Dex, +14 natural, -1 size)

hp 103 (10d10+48)

Fort +6, Ref +14, Will +9 (+4 morale vs. enchantment)

Defensive Abilities fortification 50%, invisibility; DR 10/magic and slashing

Offense

Speed 30 ft.

Melee 2 slams +16 (4d6+2)

Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.

Tactics

During Combat The Grand Malkin manifests using teleplasmic surge, before usurping greater invisibility. He focuses retributive slams on enemies who dare attack him or the grand dam.

Base Statistics Without his usurped manifestation and spells, the Grand Malkin's statistics are Size Medium; AC 27, touch 15, flat-footed 22; hp 88; Fort +4, Ref +12, Will +7; Melee 2 slams +15 (3d6+1); Str 12; CMB +11; CMD 26; Skills Appraise +12, Bluff +21, Disguise +6, Fly +10, Intimidate +17, Knowledge (arcana) +12, Knowledge (nobility, planes, religion) +5, Linguistics +1, Perception +13, Sense Motive +13, Stealth +18.

Statistics

Str 14, Dex 20, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 18

Base Atk +10; CMB +15; CMD 28

Feats Deceitful, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (slam), Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Finesse

Skills Appraise +14, Bluff +23, Fly +10, Intimidate +19, Knowledge (arcana) +14, Knowledge (nobility, planes, religion) +7, Linguistics +3, Perception +15, Sense Motive +15, Stealth +36 (+56 when stationary)

Languages Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Ignan

SQ devotion, ectoplasmic phase lurch, jealous combatant, magic attacks, retribution (2d8), teleplasmic surge, usurp manifestation 16 rounds/day, usurp spell

The Grand Dam is the keeper of the Book of the Black Sphynx, which contains the occult rituals described in the New Rules section and grants a +2 competence bonus on those rituals' skill checks.

Carnival Troupe

"Step right up and see the world—yes, ladies and gentlemen, enjoy a show gathered from the disparate corners of the globe! For just a few shiny coins, see bravado and oddities heretofore unknown in your sleepy hamlet, too astonishing to speak of on public corners and within a sheriff's earshot! These canvas walls hide marvels beyond reckoning. Freakish forms cursed by nature! Toothsome young bodies guaranteed to delight! Within you'll find contortions and conjurations, mysteries and mesmerism, and sights to bewitch and delight! All that parts you from this life-changing extravaganza is the exchange of a cursory fee! Pay no attention, my friends, to hurtful rumors of malfeasance here. Our purpose is but to delight by bringing wonders, lessons, and dangers from across the lands to your profitable and trusting little community! Step right up and learn every conceivable meaning of awe!" —The ringmaster, as her eyes glow so hypnotically, so invitingly, so trustworthily…

Fang Monastery

A secret martial arts dojo hidden in the mountains where initiates must undergo rigorous physical and mental training? Sounds like part of a backstory for a PC monk, where the monk met a wise master and trained in secret techniques. But the Fang Monastery is more than just a training ground for martial arts; the First Fang is obsessed with the ancient empire of the serpentfolk and seeks nothing less than a return to a twisted order patterned off the serpentfolk of old.

Sinister Cult

What could be crazier than a secret cult so dedicated to the apocalypse that they worship daemons, or perhaps the Great Old Ones? Why, an apocalyptic cult that worships daemons and the Great Old Ones, of course! Of course, the Sinister Mastermind uses his powers of persuasion and raw charisma to delude the lower ranks who just want to belong from realizing this goal (yep, as the master of a cult, he's a cult master mesmerist!), but the upper echelons are full of insane prophets, daemonic agents, and more. Note the comedy mask on the front of the cult assassin's crossbow, the symbol of the cult. Once you have the book, if you look closely you can find one on each picture, and the Sinister Mastermind has the tragedy mask to complete the pair and usher in an incomprehensible tragedy.

Slayer's Guild

Speaking of assassins, last but not least is the slayer's guild, a religious order of assassins who believe in one simple truth: any assassination is just as long as it's paid for properly. There are assassins of all stripes, from those who use disguises to those who focus on beatdowns, from a vishkanya deadly courtesan (the second in command) to snipers of all stripes. The fact that several members use bows, like the ninja zen archer pictured below, means that they also have strong representation in the secret bonus groups (see below).


Illustrations by Ramon Puasa Jr., Richard Suwono, Bogdan Rezunenko, and Florian Stitz

Wait, did I just say secret bonus organizations? I sure did! In the back of the book, there are 22 write-ups of organizations that use members from across several of the chapters, either as an adventuring party of members all around the same level, a themed group, or a different sort of group entirely. Most of these are sort of alternate reality mix-ups of different ways to use the NPCs, like The Furies (and all-female adventuring group named for the erinyes), but some of my favorites are meta-groups that could exist in a world that contains all the groups in the book. For instance, the Legion of Dominion is a cabal of the most powerful villains in the book, banded together to help share information and protect against heroes by the Eminent Spellqueen, and the Chromatic College of the Atonal Arts is a bardic college where almost every faculty member is a secret recruiter, advocate, or spy for a different evil group. My favorite, however, is the Silent Oath, a sort of henchmen anonymous group, which I've included here to close out our final blog:

An order of minions working across various evil organizations, the Silence provides numerous benefits to its members, from a place to vent and share frustration at their overlords' demands to an avenue for the organizations to coordinate through even when their leaders are too publicly opposed to allow an official alliance. With the threat of retribution from their organizations' commanders, members swear a namesake oath of silence. The founder is a bearer who managed to find and reattune a number of society rings that the Secret Society had forgotten through the years. Other members include a cult librarian, the spellmaster, the stagecrafter, a shadowcaster, a fang monastery ascendant, the Renewer, a royal bureaucrat, and a guild operative.

I hope you enjoy Villain Codex as much as we enjoyed working on it!

Mark Seifter
Designer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Bogdan Rezunenko Daniel Lopez Florian Stitz Gintas Galvanauskas Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ramon Puasa Jr. Villain Codex

{i]That's right, in secret, the society engages in hunts for the most dangerous game. But with a twist: these ailurophiles use magic to transform their victims into humanoid mice while hunting them in cat masks.[/i]

Is this where Ratfolk come from?

And I like that Slayer's Guild. The description makes them sound like the Daggermark Assassin's Guild.


I really should give those "mix it up" villain groups another look....

Contributor

Hehehehe....

Perram and I RAVED about the Secret Society on Know Direction. It is such a fun, evocative read. Definitely give it a look.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Wow...this is a hard choice for a Paladin. Attempt to kill the head of an evil organization but you'll be taking the life of a child as a result. :(


The Legion of Doom-inion is everything I wanted in this book!

Paizo Employee Designer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Troodos wrote:
The Legion of Doom-inion is everything I wanted in this book!

If you squint a little, there are some parallels between the Eminent Spellqueen and Lex Luthor, since her organization is rich and powerful with cutting edge magic and good PR while being secretly evil. I definitely said "banded together" in the blog to lampshade that, though, like the beginning of the old Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon "Banded together from remote galaxies..."


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Must...buy...Villain...Codex...

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