Questions about the Aboleth and their Goals


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Shadow Lodge

This is something I've been mulling over for the last few days and haven't really come up with an answer so I figured I'd come here and see if anyone had a good idea,

What are the Aboleth's goals as a species? I know on Golarion they have ties to the rise and fall of Azlant and that various individuals sometimes have distinct goals but as a society what are they trying to do? As it stands I've run through most of my sources from PF and 3.5 and I've not really been able to find an answer beyond something like, "The Elder things but more EVIL and vague". Do they have some greater reasoning for so much interaction with humanity and the other terrestrial humanoids beyond mustache (I suppose in their case tentacle) twirling villainy, do they have some thematic through-line like devils or daemons, or are they really just sort of ill defined beyond being smart and "unknowable"?

I'm interested to see if anyone has any good sources that might fill in the gaps on what kind of goals the Aboleth have as a society as a whole in the current eras of various settings so I can try and figure out an interesting pitch for them that's more than "Evil plotting mwahahaha..."


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Well, the one time we know they took concerted action was when Azlant became too powerful. It might not be far off to say that their motivation then was simple survival. In short, they ran the risk of becoming targeted, which would have been a pretty short fight. A couple of questions arise:

* Why do they not try again to wipe out humanity? Is their need for slaves so imperative? With all the other options out there, it seems wiping out humanity for good might be a good idea to them. And remember, that blast worked pretty well.

* Why do they remain where they are? There should be so many other places they could set up shop, if you include space (which they apparently have some truck with) and other planes. Staying forces them to infiltrate heavily into the huge power structures the humans have built.

Speculation about answers: The aboleths paid a heavy price to use the Starstone, one they might not be willing to risk again. The peoples of Golarion are more aware of them now, and it may not be possible anymore. And likely, they stay because they either will not surrender their territory due to pride, or because there is something they will not leave, something vital to them.

All in all, a fair bit of tentacle-twirling.


If you haven't done it already, I'd suggest reading the aboleth article on the Pathfinder wiki. You might already have the info, but at least it's all collected in one place.

Also, I suspect that there will be a lot more about the aboleth in the next Adventure Path, The Ruins of Azlant, so you might just need to be patient until later this year.

I also recommend reading up on the Veiled Masters, which I believe has been "updated" in Bestiary 6.

Shadow Lodge

Part of the usefulness of vauge plotting is that it can suit any GM's purposes. The writers have said a few times that they've intentionally left stuff vague for GMs to fill them in.

The way I look at it, Earthfall did indeed wreck human civilization, but it also ruined the rest of the world. Having relied upon their servitor races for so long, and their long-term views, my explanation in any adventure I'm running that doesn't feature them is that they're still looking for a way to re-doom humanity without also accidentally dooming themselves again. So far, they're still working on it.

Shadow Lodge

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The Shifty Mongoose wrote:

Part of the usefulness of vauge plotting is that it can suit any GM's purposes. The writers have said a few times that they've intentionally left stuff vague for GMs to fill them in.

The way I look at it, Earthfall did indeed wreck human civilization, but it also ruined the rest of the world. Having relied upon their servitor races for so long, and their long-term views, my explanation in any adventure I'm running that doesn't feature them is that they're still looking for a way to re-doom humanity without also accidentally dooming themselves again. So far, they're still working on it.

Yeah but that's the problem, the aboleth are so conceptually vague in terms of society and motive that they effectively have none.

Why did the do Earthfall? Because they were mad at the Azlant for ignoring them. Why did that matter to them vs. the rest of the humanoid populations on Golarion?
*spooky finger waving* "Mysterious reasons" */spooky finger waving*

Why do they interact with the Darklands races? Why do they care about the surface, if they are a species with a culture & society and therefore have societal goals what are they, what were they before earthfall, do they even care that it happened? Why do they want to get control of golarion's surface when we haven't seen any interest in it from them ever, why didn't they work with the serpentfolk or the cyclops' who likely have ideals closer to their own?

This is exacerbated when looked at through the lens of setting neutrality, when the aboleth are removed from Golarion and therefore what context that setting gives them. What is the hierarchy for these fish things and how do they work within it? Why do they stay on planets that they no longer dominate, make other species, and meddle but seem never to go farther than that, what distinguishes them narratively & thematically from the Elder Things but with an E in their alignment.

These are the questions I'm trying to get some answers to so I can figure out better ways to use them. Otherwise they feel less like a large, ominous, atmospheric threat like the Cthulhian tales they draw from and more like weird mook monsters like the bulette a rust monster. At best a monster of the week that gets dispatched or at worst like a conspiracy built around a nonsensical, contradicting ideal.

This is the stuff I'm trying to understand. I feel like a lot of the other big bad alien guys have these traits better defined so that at least the GM has some inspiration to work from. The Aboleth though feel like a lot of that narrative societal distinction is missing.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
doc the grey wrote:


Yeah but that's the problem, the aboleth are so conceptually vague in terms of society and motive that they effectively have none.

That's always been my problem with them. They feel sort of like they only exist so there can be a grand aboleth conspiracy when the GM wants there to be, rather than being a cohesive part of the setting.

So they exist in this odd middle ground where they're incredibly powerful (to the point of absurdity in my opinion) and yet also basically don't matter at all to the setting at large. Except when a given plot needs them to matter so it can be part of some grand aboleth conspiracy that's so inscrutable and complex that to us mere humans it looks kind of pointless and unnecessary. And yet despite that overwhelming power and layers upon layers of complexity it's a plot that can eventually be foiled. Possibly because foiling the plot is part of an even grander conspiracy and possibly because the power of the aboleths as a group is sometimes kind of arbitrary.

Sadly I expect the new AP to double down on a lot of this.

Personally I think everything about the Aboleths works a lot better if Earthfall was an act of desperation. That instead of simply being annoyed by Azlant's desire to surpass them that the Aboleths actually were being surpassed and overwhelmed by the humans and that their empire was in shambles already when they called the Starstone.

Earthfall itself makes a lot more sense if the power involved is something normally they were unable or completely unwilling to attempt instead of godkilling death apparently just being something they can do when they feel like it.

The fall of the Aboleth empire makes a lot more sense if Earthfall was an act of MAD, if they were already in shambles and/or there were other powers involved rather than the Aboleths apparently just being really, really really really bad at math.

And the disparate/vague nature of modern Aboleth society makes a lot of sense if that's because there isn't one, just loners and tribes with maybe some small pockets of more.

I think their obsession with the surface races tends to work better too through the lens of race not only literally broken but likely mentally as well. How does a society as egotistical and arrogant as the aboleths reconcile their self-image with their current role in the world as glorified parasites and bottom feeders.

Regardless one thing I'd like to see is internal conflict. Because I feel like a lot of Aboleths would be kind of ticked off that, as things stand now in the lore, the Veiled Masters are basically single handedly responsible for the annihilation of their empire for what appears to be no good reason.


It seems to me that the Aboleth must have been a whole lot tougher in the past. Other than the ability to cast Dominate Monster 3 times a day they are not really all that powerful. Sure they have a lot of at will illusions but is that enough to totally dominate a planet? They were supposed to have experimented on humans and created the Azlanti race. Considering how powerful the Azlanti grew it seem that if they did create them the experiment quickly got out of control. To me this suggests that modern Aboleth have degenerated from what they once were. Morlocks are supposed to be the degenerate descendants of the Azlanti. Modern Aboleth are seem to have fallen about the same amount.

If this is true than the goals of modern Aboleth probably have absolutely nothing in common with what their ancestors did. After all how much do the goals of the Morlocks resemble those of the ancient Azlanti?


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The last four or five pages of Sunken Empires is an article titled The Ecology of the Aboleth. It is a great book, you should buy it.

Have you read Lords of Madness? Chapter 2: The Deep Masters is all about aboleths.


I liken the Aboleth to the Reapers from Mass Effect.

Mass Effect spoilers:
They both are mysterious precursors who built up civilizations and then destroyed them when they got too advanced. They both have flimsy motivations. They are both have great designs and can really ratchet up the terror.

The Reapers from Mass Effect lost a lot of cred when their motives are finally revealed. They don't want machines wiping out organics so they built machines to wipe out organics every 50,000 years. It makes zero sense until the revelation that their leader, the catalyst, is a VI not an AI. It got its orders from the Leviathans and can't change from it.

I think Paizo is trying to avoid the fan hate that ME 3 got for this revelation among others. Once Mass Effect got specific, fans rightly tore it apart for the lack of basic logic of the Reapers' actions considering their motivations.

If they nailed down a real motivation for the Aboleths, it would probably be pretty dumb considering their actions: "Hey guys! I got a great idea for stopping those uppity humans! Let's drop a colossal meteor on the planet that *we* live on!"


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Even earlier then that (1st ed) in Dragon Magazine 131 or 151 (can't recall exactly) they had an Ecology of the Aboleth article. It's been a while since I've read it but could shed some light and it did expend on different, stronger aboleth.


Theory - perhaps the aboleth stay on Golarion because they are researching methods to release and kill Rovagug. Not out of any sort of altruistic intentions; their plan is to then use that research to slay all divine beings.


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Andre Roy wrote:
Even earlier then that (1st ed) in Dragon Magazine 131 or 151 (can't recall exactly) they had an Ecology of the Aboleth article. It's been a while since I've read it but could shed some light and it did expend on different, stronger aboleth.

It is Dragon #131 from 1988. It introduced the Greater, Noble, Ruler, and Grand Aboleths, the latter being 40 Hit dice.

Sunken Empires has an introduction by Zeb Cook that details how the Aboleth made it into the game. Really interesting historical read.


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Larkos wrote:
I liken the Aboleth to the Reapers from Mass Effect.

Honestly I see the Aboleths as more like the Leviathans than the Reapers. Specifically, they were the most powerful species in their own purview since time immemorial, and they're primarily interested in tribute and dominion. Because they've been on top of the heap for so long, their own hubris leads them to short-sighted action once tribute starts drying up (creating the Catalyst leading to the Reapers, or calling the Starstone leading to the fall of their civilization respectively).

Since this was the first time in Leviathan/Aboleth history that things went really badly for them, they handled it very poorly, and as they are beings that exist on a different timescale than humans they aren't exactly quick to get their acts together.

But I would say that the primary objective of the Aboleths is to be in charge, and to be reminded of that via tribute etc. I figure if we've got vast, alien, incomprehensible beings it's okay for the only motivations they have which can be understood by humans (including the GM and her players) are the petty ones.

I mean, if the Aboleths have some plan to change the frequency of some celestial harmony (or some other fantasybabble), it's most likely that the PCs are interested in thwarting it because "doing so" would put the Aboleths back in charge rather than some effect only the Aboleths and various cosmic beings would actually notice. It's not really fundamentally from when gods or demon lords do something. The PCs care when Deskari wants to open the Worldwound wider, but not when he wants to do some reorganization in the Abyss.


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The same thing we do everyday Pinky


I've always figured the motivation was control. Control of everything, or at least everything that matters.

Aboleth are frequently described as having perfect, near-infinite memories. Every failure must be a constant mental thorn. Humans can, will, and do discard unwanted memories. If aboleth really do have the memories they are described as having, they likely can't/won't discard memories. Thus every failure, every mistake, is a constant, concious mental knife twisting into their psyches, made worse by the knowledge that their peers will likewise never, ever forget said failure. That sounds like solid motivation to control all the variables, and thus never make a mistake again.

So everything is orchestrated to keep control, keep the variables predictable, separate things into acceptable error margins, all for the great aboleth goal of peace of mind. No moustache twirling, just a simple selfish desire.

Like the old photo from the Paizo Office of the "Did the aboleth do it?" flowchart, literally everything could be traced to aboleth schemes.
Because of their inclusion in the game world, and the stated events that have occurred in the history of said world because of them, there really is only one conclusion: the world basically is the way it is because of the aboleth. They have won, or are in the process of winning, precisely because they aren't trying to conquer, just control.

Its the secret society idea. Some group dictating how the world works, manipulating from behind the scenes. Regardless of whether you beleive such a thing can happen in the real world, in a world of magic, gods, and primordial telepathic creatures with infinite memory, it can sure happen there.

Just my view on it.


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Since the Aboleth were part of the scene before Paizo could type Cthulhu without possible repercussions, we should pretend we don't see anything "untoward" about cyclopean and alien underwater cities...

If you can think of a motivation that is cohesive and understandable, you should be wrong, in a wishful thinking kind of way. They should not make a lot of sense, they are not humans in Aboleth suits.

As to disappointment in their power levels. Their stripped down, allowed to cross the street alone version is CR 7, with a set of abilities that could situationally make them better than their CR implies. This is seriously discounting the Aquatic home court advantage.
Add some caster levels to them, or slayer levels, or any character levels to them.

Now, assume you are in a world and not a carefully balanced and railed module, and your party isn't so good at research, or paying attention to subtle warnings, you know, like butchered Megalodons......


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3.5 has a write up in the Realms about them. They mention that before men, the Aboleths ruled everything. Once other races popped up they took over and the Aboleths are jealous basically.
This seems pretty small and dumb in scope for an alien intelligence.

Take a look at Lords of Madness (which has a section on Aboleths) from 3.5 and Elder Evils from 3 or 3.5 for some ideas to add to your game.


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Back in the day, the Aboleth were plentiful and you could find them in the wild. Now they all come from hatcheries, which is part of the decline. Farmed fish just aren't the same.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
JosMartigan wrote:


This seems pretty small and dumb in scope for an alien intelligence.

Well, being alien and strange doesn't necessarily mean they're all that smart.

Remember these are creatures that accidentally wiped out their own empire because they were kind of annoyed at humanity... and that's after a healthy dose of divine intervention. They might have very well rendered themselves extinct had their plan gone off without a hitch. They're kinda dumb like that sometimes.

It actually makes for an interesting dynamic. They're alien, inscrutable, and scheming on a level most people can't even comprehend but at the same time they're petty and often rash and incredibly narcissistic too.


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Squiggit wrote:
JosMartigan wrote:


This seems pretty small and dumb in scope for an alien intelligence.

Well, being alien and strange doesn't necessarily mean they're all that smart.

Remember these are creatures that accidentally wiped out their own empire because they were kind of annoyed at humanity... and that's after a healthy dose of divine intervention. They might have very well rendered themselves extinct had their plan gone off without a hitch. They're kinda dumb like that sometimes.

It actually makes for an interesting dynamic. They're alien, inscrutable, and scheming on a level most people can't even comprehend but at the same time they're petty and often rash and incredibly narcissistic too.

"Of course space rocks can't hurt us! We live underwater, IDIOT!"


Squiggit wrote:
JosMartigan wrote:


This seems pretty small and dumb in scope for an alien intelligence.

Well, being alien and strange doesn't necessarily mean they're all that smart.

Remember these are creatures that accidentally wiped out their own empire because they were kind of annoyed at humanity... and that's after a healthy dose of divine intervention. They might have very well rendered themselves extinct had their plan gone off without a hitch. They're kinda dumb like that sometimes.

It actually makes for an interesting dynamic. They're alien, inscrutable, and scheming on a level most people can't even comprehend but at the same time they're petty and often rash and incredibly narcissistic too.

I have to say that a juxtaposed set of values and mental traits does create an alien mindset. I supposed if their actions seem to be counter to their plots and schemes, humans (and demi-humans) might be scratching their head about how to deal with these creatures. Keeping the players and the characters off balance almost all of the time.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I always figured out that Aboleths are just alien imperial control freaks

Like reason why they summoned meteor to smite Azlanti wasn't that they needed to punish them, it was to teach them a lesson for daring to be arrogant enough to think they don't need Aboleths who raised their civilization anymore. They didn't realize they would harm their own empire in process though :P


I don't know that the Aboleths self destructed, or just went Covert. Who's to say that they haven't found away to insert their own control agents into the very myth structure of Humanity?


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ultimatepunch wrote:
Have you read Lords of Madness? Chapter 2: The Deep Masters is all about aboleths.

This prompted me to drag out my hardback of the book and go over Aboleths again. Oh, the ideas that have sprung to mind.

Shadow Lodge

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ultimatepunch wrote:

The last four or five pages of Sunken Empires is an article titled The Ecology of the Aboleth. It is a great book, you should buy it.

Have you read Lords of Madness? Chapter 2: The Deep Masters is all about aboleths.

Own both, read both, Sunken Empires' use of Vril inspires a facet of the lost tech in my home game and a prominent NPC for the players. lol Rereading Lords of Madness's Aboleth entry was part of what prompted this thread XD. That said I forgot about the stuff in Sunken Empires with aboleth! I'm totally going to go back over that stuff. It also has a history.

Shadow Lodge

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Squiggit wrote:
doc the grey wrote:


Yeah but that's the problem, the aboleth are so conceptually vague in terms of society and motive that they effectively have none.

That's always been my problem with them. They feel sort of like they only exist so there can be a grand aboleth conspiracy when the GM wants there to be, rather than being a cohesive part of the setting.

So they exist in this odd middle ground where they're incredibly powerful (to the point of absurdity in my opinion) and yet also basically don't matter at all to the setting at large. Except when a given plot needs them to matter so it can be part of some grand aboleth conspiracy that's so inscrutable and complex that to us mere humans it looks kind of pointless and unnecessary. And yet despite that overwhelming power and layers upon layers of complexity it's a plot that can eventually be foiled. Possibly because foiling the plot is part of an even grander conspiracy and possibly because the power of the aboleths as a group is sometimes kind of arbitrary.

Sadly I expect the new AP to double down on a lot of this.

Thank you! Happy to know I'm not the only one who feels like Aboleth end up being written a lot like a 666 Illuminati confirmed conspiracy. As a GM I feel like we should at least have some idea of what the hell is going on so we can make decent judgement calls and build on what the hell's going on, rather than just feeling like you have to wing everything and try and excuse it through tentacle twirling and "all according to plan" speeches. These are giant fish geniuses, not Tzeneech.

Squiggit wrote:

Personally I think everything about the Aboleths works a lot better if Earthfall was an act of desperation. That instead of simply being annoyed by Azlant's desire to surpass them that the Aboleths actually were being surpassed and overwhelmed by the humans and that their empire was in shambles already when they called the Starstone.

Earthfall itself makes a lot more sense if the power involved is something normally they were unable or completely unwilling to attempt instead of godkilling death apparently just being something they can do when they feel like it.

The fall of the Aboleth empire makes a lot more sense if Earthfall was an act of MAD, if they were already in shambles and/or there were other powers involved rather than the Aboleths apparently just being really, really really really bad at math.

This has always been one of my interpretations of events or at least what I assume modern Aboleth view Earthfall as. I think the initial call was made from as much a place of hubris as desperation but the point was the same, Azlant had gotten too big and the Aboleth thought it needed to go, that dropping a comet on it was the only way, and likely believed they would walk out better than their enemies if they did it. They were more or less correct, Azlant died, but I think they miscalculated how much of a slow bleeding wound it would cause to themselves. Thanks to you guys for that, as it makes this whole affair seem a bit more sensical.

Squiggit wrote:


And the disparate/vague nature of modern Aboleth society makes a lot of sense if that's because there isn't one, just loners and tribes with maybe some small pockets of more.

I think that this is mostly true with a slight adjustment. I think that to the Aboleth, they still mostly see themselves as the same unified culture that existed prior to Earthfall. The problem is that since the decimation many of the survivors have been extremely isolated from each other and have slowly changed culturally in the intervening millennia. This leaves the Aboleth in this weird position where each pocket thinks it's the one true bastion of Aboleth culture and causes quick and lasting unification to be difficult prospects. On top of that, with the thousands of years of separation the traditional power structures have broken down in many communities and been replaced with new options like band/tribal egalitarianism or nonhereditary leadership (the veiled masters are a leadership species that controls through hereditary inherited strengths so those without one would have to replace it with something) and those areas are likely reticent or not interested in replacing the systems that have let them survive this long. This has likely caused a whole mess of problems I don't think I could really explain in this single post without it being a novel. Might later if others are interested.

Squiggit wrote:
I think their obsession with the surface races tends to work better too through the lens of race not only literally broken but likely mentally as well. How does a society as egotistical and arrogant as the aboleths reconcile their self-image with their current role in the world as glorified parasites and bottom feeders.

Hmmm... I'm not into the idea that the Aboleth gone anymore insane than they already were, too much of what little we do know about them is built on they as a species and a society being cold, rational planners who potentially understand reality better than we do for that to really work without undermining that thought. That said, I think part of it might be something like a Jurassic Park effect. The Aboleth are the masters of genetic manipulation, creating nearly a dozen or so sentient species at least in their pre-Earthfall tenure on Golarion and other settings. Now they live in scattered factious pockets around the globe while their carefully curated races breed and multiply out of control across the planet, ruining their works, wrecking their ecosystems (I doubt any of the species they made were meant to survive without Aboleth supervision) and becoming another source of competition and threat to their survival. On top of all that, certain races are starting to figure out their fleshwarping techniques, practicing a science they've spent millenia learning with the same finesse as a bull in a china shop. So basically the Aboleth live in a Jurassic Park they cannot leave, isolated, cut off from easy communication with help, and surrounded by their dinosaurs as they run a muck. Factor that in with their limited access to ways off the planet and I think we can see why their pissed, their scared that their creations will find them and push them out, or destabilize their world until they no longer can live on it.

Squiggit wrote:
Regardless one thing I'd like to see is internal conflict. Because I feel like a lot of Aboleths would be kind of ticked off that, as things stand now in the lore, the Veiled Masters are basically single handedly responsible for the annihilation of their empire for what appears to be no good reason.

Agreed. The Aboleth might be lawful but with the level of isolation that we see I cannot fathom them being that monolithic or socialistic on the individual level to just fall back in line that easily.

Shadow Lodge

Thanis Kartaleon wrote:
Theory - perhaps the aboleth stay on Golarion because they are researching methods to release and kill Rovagug. Not out of any sort of altruistic intentions; their plan is to then use that research to slay all divine beings.

I addressed this in the large post above but I don't think that they are staying because they want but because they have to. I think that the Aboleth don't really have many large scale ways to leave Golarion or other planets in mass since they don't really seem to have the technology to create interstellar craft and the magic that allows things like interplanetary transportation are still locked off to only the greatest of magicians even among the Aboleth. On top of that, considering how long Aboleth take to do anything it might be a greater risk to leave and try to establish themselves than to stay where they are and try and right the ship.

I could also see them not wanting to leave and leave behind all the works they and their ancestors have left on the planet proper. We've already seen that the magic for Earthfall and the secrets of Fleshwarping are starting to be understood by the Drow and other races, I can only imagine what other technologies and magical secrets a race of immortal fishfolk might have left lying around in the broken remains of their planet that they don't want to cede to the mortal races only to be used on them later.


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Aboleth send out RNA coded commands to control the surface world via consumption of the RNA bearing fish and mollusks. Trust no one who eats sushi or lutefisk. You should already mistrust those who eat raw oysters.

I rather enjoy ridiculous conspiracy theories.


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JosMartigan wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
JosMartigan wrote:


This seems pretty small and dumb in scope for an alien intelligence.

Well, being alien and strange doesn't necessarily mean they're all that smart.

Remember these are creatures that accidentally wiped out their own empire because they were kind of annoyed at humanity... and that's after a healthy dose of divine intervention. They might have very well rendered themselves extinct had their plan gone off without a hitch. They're kinda dumb like that sometimes.

It actually makes for an interesting dynamic. They're alien, inscrutable, and scheming on a level most people can't even comprehend but at the same time they're petty and often rash and incredibly narcissistic too.

I have to say that a juxtaposed set of values and mental traits does create an alien mindset. I supposed if their actions seem to be counter to their plots and schemes, humans (and demi-humans) might be scratching their head about how to deal with these creatures. Keeping the players and the characters off balance almost all of the time.

My favourite strategy tip: When your opponent can only think, "What the heck is this guy even trying to do?!" they aren't thinking of how to defeat you.

Shadow Lodge

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The Black Bard wrote:

I've always figured the motivation was control. Control of everything, or at least everything that matters.

Aboleth are frequently described as having perfect, near-infinite memories. Every failure must be a constant mental thorn. Humans can, will, and do discard unwanted memories. If aboleth really do have the memories they are described as having, they likely can't/won't discard memories. Thus every failure, every mistake, is a constant, concious mental knife twisting into their psyches, made worse by the knowledge that their peers will likewise never, ever forget said failure. That sounds like solid motivation to control all the variables, and thus never make a mistake again.

So everything is orchestrated to keep control, keep the variables predictable, separate things into acceptable error margins, all for the great aboleth goal of peace of mind. No moustache twirling, just a simple selfish desire.

Like the old photo from the Paizo Office of the "Did the aboleth do it?" flowchart, literally everything could be traced to aboleth schemes.
Because of their inclusion in the game world, and the stated events that have occurred in the history of said world because of them, there really is only one conclusion: the world basically is the way it is because of the aboleth. They have won, or are in the process of winning, precisely because they aren't trying to conquer, just control.

Its the secret society idea. Some group dictating how the world works, manipulating from behind the scenes. Regardless of whether you beleive such a thing can happen in the real world, in a world of magic, gods, and primordial telepathic creatures with infinite memory, it can sure happen there.

Just my view on it.

My problem with this interpretation has been that it both undermines the interesting part of their narrative as the master planner and steps on the toes of another villain of the series that already does that "absolute control of everything" goal but better. With the former, having a group of master planners/grand conspiracy people is fine in theory but in a story someone at the very least needs to understand the why of there actions even at some level to keep narrative consistency (in this instance the GM/writer). Lacking someone who knows what their long term goal is the Aboleth's narrative will start to fall a part as everyone makes up their own answers and writes them as true and the Aboleth start to feel all over the place and narratively disorganized rather than a distinct, alien, and terrifying threat. Why should I care about them or be afraid when the Aboleth stories often either feel silly, simple, and/or nonsensical or I'm told, "They've already won, you can never understand any of it"? Readers & PCs will tune out and not give a s+#! and all that work a GM or writer puts into them for use will be a waste. The reader & player has to care about them somehow for the species to get used.

Second, that absolute control of everything schtick has always felt way more like the Devils bag than Aboleth. The former are the physical manifestations of our worst oppressive instincts come to life, birthed from our continued atrocities of man against man, and sustained by that continued perpetuation. The Aboleth though are mortal, fleshy beings and have mortal fleshy concerns. They eat, sleep, breath, and die just like we do and though their lives and minds are likely extremely alien to man's they still are not a sustained manifestation of human tyranny that bursts into maggots that dissolve to nothing when killed. The theme when writing them should be alien but "physical" in scope when I think of them rather than philosophical made real like that absolute control narrative often becomes.

Hopefully that makes sense? It is not easy to explain that without sitting here for an hour or writing a paper all on its own XD.

Shadow Lodge

Daw wrote:

Aboleth send out RNA coded commands to control the surface world via consumption of the RNA bearing fish and mollusks. Trust no one who eats sushi or lutefisk. You should already mistrust those who eat raw oysters.

I rather enjoy ridiculous conspiracy theories.

Lol I like the idea of humans sitting around telling stories about the Aboleth under different, regional names that look a lot like 666 iluminati confirmed rants. The fun part though as a GM is working out a consistent throughline of what they are doing so you can watch your players find out which theories are fake and which ones are horrifyingly true.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Aboleth are the original inhabitants of Golarion, then one day a bunch of wankers showed up and said, "Nice planet. Seems like the perfect place to imprison a lunatic god." The Aboleth have been trying to kill said wankers ever since.

Shadow Lodge

Son of the Veterinarian wrote:
The Aboleth are the original inhabitants of Golarion, then one day a bunch of wankers showed up and said, "Nice planet. Seems like the perfect place to imprison a lunatic god." The Aboleth have been trying to kill said wankers ever since.

But why? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Aboleth are effectively immortal right? Barring disease or misfortune an Aboleth can live forever. So wouldn't it be easier for these sorry intelligent, immortal aliens to just wait for humanity to go extinct like the countless other species on Golarion before it? I'd think observation would suggest to them that these new terrestrial cockroaches would go the same route.

So why do they care enough to be involved, and he is their meddling different from that of other races like the get or the devils?


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The only real problem with Aboleths (to me, anyway) is they're only CR 7. If they're so fearsome and terrible, you'd think they'd be a bigger challenge, at least on the level of the Great Old Ones. To make them a challenge for higher level characters you have to add character levels to them. I found a pdf today that did just that for a dollar, so I bought it. It adds levels of the Dread class from Dreamscarred Press to it, making it CR 12 and a threat to moderately powerful characters. Much more interesting, IMHO.

Mind Blast


They can take class levels.. think of them as a playable race... Then they seem pretty powerful, how much RP is dominate monster 3/day?


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

The only real problem with Aboleths (to me, anyway) is they're only CR 7. If they're so fearsome and terrible, you'd think they'd be a bigger challenge, at least on the level of the Great Old Ones. To make them a challenge for higher level characters you have to add character levels to them. I found a pdf today that did just that for a dollar, so I bought it. It adds levels of the Dread class from Dreamscarred Press to it, making it CR 12 and a threat to moderately powerful characters. Much more interesting, IMHO.

Mind Blast

Humans are the dominant race/species of many, many rpg worlds. Most of them are 1 HD (1d4 hp in fact) creatures. How do we explain that?


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the breed like rabbits! WITH EVERYTHING >.>


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Because that's the dominant trope in fantasy. I'm guilty of it, too. If I had my way, my world would be only Humans as the PC race, but my players like at least a little variety.

It's just a stretch for me to suspend my belief Aboleths are so scary when they're only CR 7. And like I said, it's just my opinion. YMMV.


Only humans as PC race?!

... .... ..... This is High fantasy we're talking about right? O.o


It's worth noting that deep walkers and veiled masters are CR 14, and omnipaths are CR 18.


Also,,aren't the CR 7, base Aobleths the equivalent of their commoners?
In that perspective, they're terrifying.


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So.. a few thoughts...

If you're trying to explain the Aboleths of Golarion, you have to discard a lot of the lore from Lords of Madness and other pre-Pathfinder sources. Except for the basics, the details are owned Intellectual Property of other companies that Paizo cannot use.

That said, Sunken Empires is a Paizo-Kobold collaborative product, so its lore may be somewhat usable.. but may not be completely canonical in Golarion. Incidentally, the Vril content and Aboleth Glyph Magic are expanded upon in the Deep Magic supplement from Open Design (formerly Kobold Press).

What has been revealed in Golarion lore about their actions are mostly just glimpses of isolated incidents. How, or even IF, they fit together is not known. Speaking of a "goal as a species" seems kind of out of place to me. Humans, as a species, have no shared goal .. we mostly just try to live our daily lives and propagate. Perhaps the Aboleth do have some kind of species-wide goal.. but just having that would already make their thoughts and mind-set so different from ours that it is hard to really grasp. More likely, pockets of the Aboleth advanced their own goals -- sometimes in parallel, sometimes in concert.

The depiction so far places humans as the "lab rats" of the Aboleth.. a species they've bred and conditioned to serve as experimental animals... in experiments that may cover millennia as they play out. Social experiments, perhaps, where they observer how humans respond to disaster; and how deities arise (perhaps spoiling their plans in the process).

Second Darkness spoilers:
Second Darkness explores the origins and events of Earthfall, and how that led to the appearance of the Drow. The Aboleths, for whatever reasons, struck down Azlant and in the process, were caught up in a disaster bigger than they had anticipated. Now, a Drow Matriarch is trying to re-create it, on a smaller scale, to wipe out Kyonin.. with the help of an Aboleth Mage who has been manipulated into helping her figure out the Aboleth Glyph Magic required. There's a great deal of world lore buried in this AP that proved so unpopular.

Shattered Star spoilers:
In Shattered Star, we learned that one of the Veiled Masters led Xin to take his followers and leave Azland to found Thassilon. So.. the founding of Thassilon was part of the plans of at least one Veiled Master.. who is still around and appears in the AP. The plans are ongoing after more than 10,000 years.

Mythic Realms spoilers:
Mythic Realms, particularly the section on the Mordant Spire, explains that two Azlanti gods died making Earthfall less damaging than it would have been otherwise.

So with all of that, yes, as mentioned, they are left vague and undefined... so that the questions being asked here are the same questions being pondered by the leaders of Golarion. "Am I being played by one or more of them?" "What do they want?" "Why do they do what they do?"

The implied answer is "Humans would not understand", because our minds are wired for a short lifespan and we seek answers that fit into concepts we can grasp ONLY because we live as we do. The implication that we may be incapable of grasping the concepts involved isn't that far-fetched. We can conceive of transcendent concepts like "infinity" and "eternity", but we can't really claim to understand them.

Getting a little philosophical ...

Transcending Time and Space:
As an example, for a being able to transcend time.. the beginning of the universe, the end of universe, the current moment, the first stirrings of life, man stepping on the moon... all are essentially simultaneous. To a being the transcends space, the heart of the sun, a planet in the Andromeda galaxy, my house, your house, and anywhere else is just a matter of deciding which location it wants to be in.. sort of. Together, a being that transcends both can be in all places at all times simultaneously.. and still keep it all straight in its mind.. no more difficult than us deciding whether to focus on reading the newspaper in our hands or listening to the music in the background.. and going back and forth between the two as the mood takes us.

Aboleth are not transcendent beings, but they are so much longer-lived than us that leaving their goals and plans vague is perhaps the best representation of how little a human could grasp even if the Aboleth laid it all out.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DungeonmasterCal wrote:

The only real problem with Aboleths (to me, anyway) is they're only CR 7. If they're so fearsome and terrible, you'd think they'd be a bigger challenge, at least on the level of the Great Old Ones. To make them a challenge for higher level characters you have to add character levels to them. I found a pdf today that did just that for a dollar, so I bought it. It adds levels of the Dread class from Dreamscarred Press to it, making it CR 12 and a threat to moderately powerful characters. Much more interesting, IMHO.

Mind Blast

The real issue is that Aboleths are presented as a Lovecraftian horror in a D&D setting. If you really want the Aboleths to be the threat they are supposed to be your characters have to be limited to NPC classes.

An Aboleth against a bunch of 4th level Warriors or 7th level Experts is a real threat, against a party of 5th level Paladins or Wizards...not so much.

It's the same issue with stating out something like the Slender Man. When you think about it Slendy could be represented by a 6-10 CR creature, since in Slender Man stories he's only going up against normal people, not walking paragons who can duke it out with demigods.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
It's just a stretch for me to suspend my belief Aboleths are so scary when they're only CR 7. And like I said, it's just my opinion. YMMV.

Well, if it makes you feel better, Veiled Master is CR 14 and Omnipath is CR 18. And before you say "But those are Golarion exclusives!", no need to worry, they have been released in Bestiary 6 as well xP


If they start making sense, they stop being alien. The conceptual problem with aboleths, and other "unknowable" creatures, is that the mind is hostile to the concept. Any way we manage to conceptualize "the unknowable" makes the result, de facto, wrong. It's kind of a paradox: "think of the unthinkable". It's unachievable, anything thought of is be definition thinkable.

And that's why all of these "unknowable" things will never get any serious details. Because either you make up something that makes sense, and get get flack for betraying the initial "alien" concept, or you make something up that makes no sense, and people will intuitively find it stupid and be just as hostile to it.


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I had always thought the Aboleth's goofed with Earthfall, and got more destruction than they bargained for. They probably intended to destroy the main Azlanti cities. And instead, they caused planet wide destruction and a thousand years of darkness (Never mind how they didn't kill off all the surface races and animals or themselves) which ultimately led them to be weaker than they were before.

Humanity recovered because humans are great, and the Aboleth's are a slow moving race by comparison, and have floundered ever since trying to regain their footing.


My view is they want to rule again, but in a long-game way.

Drow or Hobgoblins or Demons may have these plots to rule now, but Aboleth are looking for the future to take down those races that stand where they were.

They're malevolent and would like to see humans and other races in chains or gone, but they're not in a rush, their plans are grand and long.


I don't know how much plotting Demons do. Devils certainly but I thought Demons were a bit more ... don't think do.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Goblin_Priest wrote:

If they start making sense, they stop being alien. The conceptual problem with aboleths, and other "unknowable" creatures, is that the mind is hostile to the concept. Any way we manage to conceptualize "the unknowable" makes the result, de facto, wrong. It's kind of a paradox: "think of the unthinkable". It's unachievable, anything thought of is be definition thinkable.

And that's why all of these "unknowable" things will never get any serious details. Because either you make up something that makes sense, and get get flack for betraying the initial "alien" concept, or you make something up that makes no sense, and people will intuitively find it stupid and be just as hostile to it.

Lovecraftian horror in general doesn't make much sense. I mean, its based on existential crisis that people feel crushed under vast size of universe and their small meaningless existence and that there is information that will drive you mad. But there is nothing that exist that would drive a person mad just by knowing it exists :P I mean, sure, it'd be freaky if it turns out that everything is illusion/aliens are controlling everything/there are monsters in the dark, but you don't go instantly bonkers over that.

When going for "unknowing vast mind" thing you kinda need to stop thinking and go by emotional reaction if you want to take it as face value. Otherwise unknowable will probably end up as hilarious rather than scary, kinda like mycons there . I mean, even mycons kinda make sense if you are able to keep track of their statements, but otherwise it sounds like nonsensical gibberish

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