Thinking out loud: the Blood Fox from Monstress


Advice


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Yeah, Monstress really is pretty good. It's a monthly comic from Image that tells an above-average fantasy story with lush, incredibly detailed art. It's won a pile of awards and it's easy to see why. It has a spell-casting cat called a "nekomancer". If you like this sort of thing, you will like it a lot.

But anyway: the Blood Fox. In the comic, he's an Ancient. That's roughly equivalent to the Elders in Golarion's First World: not a god, but immortal and very powerful. The Ancients used to be CR 20+ near-gods, but their powers somehow got diluted when they bred with humans. So they're a lot weaker than they used to be, but still very formidable. The Blood Fox has been exiled by the other Ancients for extreme wickedness. (He didn't like that having part-human descendants reduced their power, and decided that genocide was the logical solution.) Now he lives alone on a magical island, surrounded by illusions. He passes the centuries getting high on a drug he brews from the bones of a dead god.

In appearance he's humanoid but with the head of a fox. (Here he is saying a friendly hello, and here he is going full-blast with a psychic offensive.) He's decadent and degenerate, and it's implied that he's stoned out of his mind much of the time. But he's still intelligent, manipulative, hateful, and very, very dangerous.

So the Blood Fox actually maps pretty well to a rakshasa -- either a maharajah rakshasa, or a mythic rakshasa, or just a standard rakshasa with a bunch of PC class levels. He's stuck on the island by some very powerful curse. He's thousands of years old and has basically Knowledge (Everything) +a lot, so you could visit him to ask him a question. He's pretty bored so he's ready to swap information.

Complication: he's not the only thing imprisoned on the island. Just getting to the island should be a challenge. (In the comic, it's literally surrounded by a belt of damned souls, which is impossible to cross without paying the undead Ferryman.) And once you're there, you need to be alert against the other inmates.

Challenge: the Blood Fox is basically Hannibal Lecter. He's willing to trade information, and can be urbane and pleasant, and he's ready to be distracted or entertained. But he's capital-E Evil and extremely dangerous to deal with. Like the good Dr. Lecter, he wants to (1) get inside your head and mess with you, and (2) escape. He may ask the PCs to do something seemingly innocent, even benign, that is actually a part of an elaborate escape plan stretching over centuries. Letting the Blood Fox escape is of course a terrible, terrible idea that will, at a minimum, seriously tick off whatever Powers locked him up in the first place. But even short of that, the Blood Fox's idea of fun would be to give you absolutely true and honest advice that will lead to some horrific outcome.

TLDR: the Blood Fox is a cool high-level NPC who could easily be adapted to many different campaigns. I'd do it myself, except then I wouldn't be able to recommend Monstress to my players.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Making stats for such a character isn't really all that relevant, such the interest of a character like this is in the conversation and manipulation, not a fight.

The challenge is that unlike an author, a DM's characters are controlled by other people. Unless the DM is able to get inside the players heads and manipulate them, the NPC he is playing won't be able to effectively do it either. Granted, the GM has a few tricks he can use, knowledge of the world, bending what will happen to make things the NPC says true, even making it appear that 'this was all according to my master plan' sort of things, but that has some peril as well. The GM is the window the players view the world through, and if the GM presents a distorted view, the players can lose trust and the game can become a GM vs Players environment.

That isn't to say this sort of thing can't be done, it can and if done well it can be really really good. It is quite difficult to do well though, and often a poor attempt can really damage a game.


Dave Justus wrote:
Making stats for such a character isn't really all that relevant, such the interest of a character like this is in the conversation and manipulation, not a fight.

Correct. This guy is more likely to be a plot driver than a statted NPC. Of course, you never know when PCs are going to do something wacky that requires you to have an NPC's abilities set down in some detail...

Quote:
That isn't to say this sort of thing can't be done, it can and if done well it can be really really good. It is quite difficult to do well though, and often a poor attempt can really damage a game.

True, and a good point. It depends on the DM, the players, and the general tone of the campaign.

I think this is more likely to work in a campaign where (1) there's a pretty high established level of trust between the DM and PCs at the meta-level, and (2) the PCs have provided hooks in their history or backstory. In the latter case, the Blood Fox gets to drop tantalizing hints. "Have you never wondered who left you at that orphanage, and why?" "So you seek the throne of Korvosa. How strange. You've learned how to break the curse, then?" IME this sort of thing works well when, in-campaign, the PCs have been abundantly warned in advance against making any sort of deal.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

Of course, you never know when PCs are going to do something wacky that requires you to have an NPC's abilities set down in some detail...

Absolutely, if I was including it in a game I would have stats prepared. But other than making sure it was well above my PCs APL and had a good general variety of powers (9-level spell casting most likely) I wouldn't sweat the details of the stats too much.

Your other points on when it is likely to work I agree with, but the very nature of how personalized it has to be makes it difficult to engage in a more general discussion of an NPC like this.

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