Looking for a terrifying steed and rider - ala the witch king


Advice


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I am planning on pitting my players against a mounted combatant. However, my players' characters are quite strong and I will need to divide them in order to provide a challenge.

Since none are immune to fear, I think that is my best bet.

I am looking for both a steed and a rider, BOTH of whom need to have some kind of automatic fear inducing ability. I want my players to feel like Gandalf and Pippin did when they encountered the Witch King, such fear that they go to attack only to drop their swords in terror.

If they pass a save, they might fail the other. Failing both stacks the fear effects.

I think this ought to be most interesting.

Any suggestions?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:

I am planning on pitting my players against a mounted combatant. However, my players' characters are quite strong and I will need to divide them in order to provide a challenge.

Since none are immune to fear, I think that is my best bet.

I am looking for both a steed and a rider, BOTH of whom need to have some kind of automatic fear inducing ability. I want my players to feel like Gandalf and Pippin did when they encountered the Witch King, such fear that they go to attack only to drop their swords in terror.

If they pass a save, they might fail the other. Failing both stacks the fear effects.

I think this ought to be most interesting.

Any suggestions?

Yes, employ GM Fiat. and just slap an appropriate fear penalty no matter what thier saving rolls say.

Fact is... the characters might feel fear when they are up close and personal, but the players themselves are safe in thier armchairs.

Dark Archive

To fear the characters, just give the steed some variation on the half-dragon template that loses the breath weapon, but gains a draconic fear aura. Or it (and the rider) could be mummified, but with a version that has a more traditional fear aura than the mummy's normal aura of despair. Or perhaps the steed (and / or rider) are possessed by a malevolent ghost, that can use it's Frightful Moan ability from it's hosts throat.

Maybe some combination. The steed is a half-dragon variant (fear aura instead of breath weapon) while the 'rider' is himself 'ridden' by a vengeful ghost, able to use Fearful Moan.

To fear the players, have the creature radiate an aura of decay and dissipation that causes everything around it to begin showing signs of age and rust and decripitude, describing physical items as growing weaker round by round (and losing enchantment pluses!), and characters as losing ability points, or gaining negative levels, just for being in the same area as the horseman.

Instead of assigning a set number of ability points, just give each person who fails a save a penalty equal to whatever physical attributes they would lose if they went up an age category (with no bonuses to mental attributes, as they are just getting older, not wiser). If they fail another save, bump the penalties up to represent the next age category, and include visible and tactile special effects, as their hair greys (or falls out), skin wrinkles, posture warps, etc. Let them think that they are really aging, and the meta-gamers can wrack their brains wondering what spell would be needed to reverse / heal this condition...

Liberal use of Restoration spells might be able to deal with normal ability drain (although not everyone would think of it as a cure for this 'aging' effect, which might require break enchantment or remove curse, instead) and / or level loss (which might take on the cosmetic effect of premature senility, with those afflicted forgetting their advanced fighting techniques or most complex rites and incantations), and the thought that their phat lewts are rotting out of their hands and off of their decaying bodies every round they stay within 30 ft. of the horseman? Yeah. That's gonna be a nail-biter, particularly if the horseman is using a weapon that nobody in the party uses, just to drive home the notion that even if they win, at the cost of losing their gear, they'll only get that weird looking Bec Du Corbin he's using as a weapon to fight their way back out of the horseman's demesne.

Don't tell them that the effects of the aura aren't permanant, and won't lead to ability drain, permanant level loss or de-enchantment / destruction of magical items. Suppressed magic items regain their magic, after a bit of cleaning and polishing, to wear away the verdigris and rust, and negative levels / ability score penalties / the faux aging effect may fade within an hour of leaving the horseman's presence (or immediately if he's destroyed), or be removed as a curse, or cured by the bog-standard restoration spells. It's the non-standard presentation of this 'ability damage' and 'level drain' that will make it seem a bit more threatening, particularly when added to the threat that all of their gear and personal wealth is about to rust and rot and corrupt away, mirroring the withering of their bodies and enfeebling of their minds...


The horsemen of the apocalypse templates in Green Ronin's advanced bestiary grant fear auras.

You could always just re-skin a dragon for the mount.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Anti-paladin possessed by a ghost riding a half-dragon nightmare with the fear aura instead of breath weapon. Give the ghost that Aura of Decrepitude that Set so creepily described. Ability Focus all the fear auras out there.

The aura of decrepitude can lower all magical pluses by 1 each round; when their magical plus is +0, it then gains the Broken condition. Might want to stay away from totally destroying their hard-won gear, unless the dark knight is sitting on a solid diamond saddle or something.

But if destroying their stuff is the goal, Improved Sunder, Greater Sunder, and Sundering Strike are your feat choices. Maybe throw in some Shatter spells from a wand or ioun stone of spell-storing the MOUNT is using...


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

If you don't mind, I would very much like to stick to the core rulebooks and the APG. I also don't like manipulating creature stats beyond the norm (changing feats and skills is okay, for example, but adding whole new abilities while dropping others is not).

I also don't mind extreme changes of flavor either, provided it is JUST flavor. Using a large true dragon and describing it as a mutant horse monster is perfectly fine with me, as I know it to be mechanically balanced.

Thank you for your suggestions so far.


I think an Anti-Paladin would be the way to go. (Its in the APG so that meets your requirements.)

The AP's aura of cowardice strips away fear immunity and imposes a penalty on fear saves, so that is a very nice touch and plays right in with what you want. At high enough levels the AP can add shakened and frightened to his corrupting touch ability. Thus with the aura of cowardice and a 9th lvl AP, he can have a very nasty touch attack that imposes a frightened effect with a hard save.

At 13th level the AP gets 4th lvl spells (assuming an 18 Cha, which shouldn't be an issue), and could cast Fear as a spell.

At 11th level he can give his allies, including his fiendish companion if he has one, the smite good ability.

Not sure on the best way to give him or his mount a radiating fear effect. The Summon Monster list doesn't seem like it would be much help for that. A magic item could work for this though, in particular one that casts fear or say an intelligent weapon that radiates fear as a special ability?

I've got to head to work at the moment, so I don't have time to flip through the bestiary to find a good mount. Or to figure what feats would work best, and I'm sure there are some that would really make an AP shine. Oh, and I'm not sure what CR you want this encounter to be it, as that can affect the level of the AP. If I think of it when I get home from work I'll look around to see what could be done.

But in general I think the AP would be the most proper fit for the theme of what you want to make.


Have him ride a Nightmare and cast greater cause fear spells :)


The Sandpoint Devil (Pathfinder Adventure Path #1) would be a good monster for this sort of thing.


Ravingdork wrote:
If you don't mind, I would very much like to stick to the core rulebooks and the APG.

There is nothing in the core rules or the APG that prohibits a DM from, say, adding a fear aura to a monster. It's also the easiest answer to your question. ;)


Ravingdork wrote:

I am planning on pitting my players against a mounted combatant. However, my players' characters are quite strong and I will need to divide them in order to provide a challenge.

Since none are immune to fear, I think that is my best bet.

I am looking for both a steed and a rider, BOTH of whom need to have some kind of automatic fear inducing ability. I want my players to feel like Gandalf and Pippin did when they encountered the Witch King, such fear that they go to attack only to drop their swords in terror.

If they pass a save, they might fail the other. Failing both stacks the fear effects.

Any suggestions?

I don't necessarily think stacking fear is the way to go. Frankly, I would go anti-paladin, for the reduction to fear bonus, and then to make it simple just put him on dragon back for frightful presence. That is the easy way. Now, if you are willing to get a bit creative...

I would make the anti-paladin a Boggard, this allows him to use his own croak as a group fear effect, toppled with the anti-paladin abilities to reduce fear saves, and that the croak is charisma based, you can put a good hurting. Stacking that fear with one other fear effect would scatter your PCs. Also, using the boggard's tongue attack, or you could flavor it to be ghostly chains or some such, would anchor one opponent from running, and help you cause separation.

Don't be afraid to use the lich template to apply another fear aura to a creature that does not have one. The lich template can be applied to any living creature, sure it says it has to be able to make a phylactery, but you could ignore that for a one-off, or the steed could be a nigh-invulnerable lich who at one point failed a save vs. polymorph any object.

If you really were willing to go out on a limb. Give the mount the stats of a basidirond that is advanced to a large enough size to carry your rider. You could flavor the creature to appear however you want changing the creature from plant to beast, but we want to keep the basidirond's special attack. The hallucination cloud forces the players to make a different save than fear, fortitude, but has very similar effects, causing players to flee for a round, drop their weapons, or waste their actions. The fact that players will be losing control of their characters consistently during the fight I believe is enough to instill the fear you seek to inspire.

Granted flavor wise this would take some rewriting, and some creatures may need to be advanced, but I think the possibilities are there for a truly nasty fear fight.


Ravingdork wrote:

I am planning on pitting my players against a mounted combatant. However, my players' characters are quite strong and I will need to divide them in order to provide a challenge.

Since none are immune to fear, I think that is my best bet.

I am looking for both a steed and a rider, BOTH of whom need to have some kind of automatic fear inducing ability. I want my players to feel like Gandalf and Pippin did when they encountered the Witch King, such fear that they go to attack only to drop their swords in terror.

If they pass a save, they might fail the other. Failing both stacks the fear effects.

I think this ought to be most interesting.

Any suggestions?

Id recommend having a look through Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary for a suitable template to apply to either one or both your mounted combatant and the mount itself. Two templates that spring to mind are:

  • Four Horsemen (all Horsemen gain a standard fear ability and a summonable mount.) For a melee guy, I'd take War, for a caster --Death. EDIT: By having more than 1 Horseman, you can stack fear effects like you mentioned above.
  • Nightmare Creature Contains a standard fear aura and has the additional Frightful Presence when it charges.

    What about combining the mount and the rider? A Nightmare Centaur Antipaladin might work and gives you two separate fear effects as detailed above. It also means you can up the CR by only having to deal with a single creature.

    EDIT2: You can even stack templates from the AB; the Horseman of War is a Bipedal Winter Wolf (AW, it is a Bipedal Winter Wolf of War), so there is nothing stopping you from adding the Nightmare template to the Horseman Template. 1 guy. Summonable incorporeal mount that can fly. Frightful Presence and two fear effects. Both templates carry a combined total of +3 to CR.

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