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Nightmare Fuel / Pathfinder

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Seventh Chronicle of Saint Ferais, Dragon Slayer 

Pathfinder is much Darker and Edgier than most Dungeons and Dragons-based worlds, and it SHOWS.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

    Rise of the Runelords 

Paizo’s first Adventure Path set the (dark and edgy) tone for all Pathfinder stories to follow.

  • Burnt Offerings
  • The Skinsaw Murders
    • The fate of the Skinsaw Man’s victims, especially Katrine Vinder and Banny Harker. Both were subject to a Cruel and Unusual Death, and Harker’s body was horribly mutilated by the murderer.
    • Habe’s Sanatorium is a Bedlam House run by two Mad Scientists and their hired tiefling thugs, and its occupants include a crazed, blade-obsessed wererat and a man well on his way to becoming a ghoul.
    • Your Lordship’s handwritten notes to the PC he’s obsessed with. Whether he’s a Yandere, a Green-Eyed Monster, or hell-bent on murdering you, knowing that the murderer wants YOU is more than a little unnerving.
    • Foxglove Manor. You know a place is bad when the house isn’t just haunted, but a lich’s Soul Jar, albeit one created accidentally. In terms of pure horror (both in-your-face and the fridge variety), the haunts here (and their history) are only topped by the ones in Spires of Xin-Shalast. Oh, and did we mention the rats?
  • The Hook Mountain Massacre
    • Really, everything in this chapter. You want specifics? You really don’t, but if you insist…
    • The Graul Farm almost surpasses the ruin of Fort Rannick in terms of grotesque ogre antics. Almost. From the morbidly obese, necrophiliac and incestuous Mammy Graul; to the various ogrekin deformities; to the horrific and cruel traps; and finally, the giant freaking ogre spider they keep in the basement; the ogrekin of the Graul family give the players their first taste of the savage depravities of ogrekind.
    • The ogre attack on Fort Rannick, and the carnage the PCs walk in on. One ogre is making dough from the guards’ entrails, one wears a bunch of dead minks in place of his severed jaw, one writes graffiti using a beheaded corpse as a brush, one enjoys playing with the corpse of a cleric of Erastil, and there's the absolutely brutal ways that Jaagreth Kreeg maintains control over his clan. The PCs are given plenty of opportunities to Kick The Son Of A Bitch; after seeing all this, they may very well take them.
    • The flood. Besides the danger of a young girl getting eaten by a gigantic snake, there’s also the sudden appearance of Black Magga.
    • The fate of Avaxial in Skull’s Crossing. The pit fiend has been trapped here for millennia, and his life force has been slowly draining away (in game terms, he has 19 negative levels; one more will kill him). And even if the PCs decide to save him (when it’s in their best interest to put him out of his misery), the text states that he may very well come back to murder them for finding him in such a humiliated state.

Everything Else

  • Lamashtu: besides being a goddess of monsters and nightmares, there's all the horrifying details surrounding her progeny and worshipers. For example, Lamashtan priestesses who give birth to children blessed by their goddess do so by letting their offspring tear their way out of the womb.
  • More fun in this vein are the Motherless, Tieflings with Qlippoth heritage. They're implied to eat their way out in childbirth, with invariably fatal results.
  • Also Zon-Kuthon, god of pain, who preaches torture, mutilation (of both oneself and others), and dismemberment of living victims (who are kept alive as long as possible). Zon-Kuthon brutally tortured and flayed his own father until he was a broken and twisted slave.
    • And why is he such a monster? He is presumed to have met something which either corrupted or possessed him. Before that event, he was quite nice.
    • Zon-Kuthon's appearance is a nightmare in itself, due to his mad devotion to self-mutilation and his divine resistance to injury and harm. He was once one of the most beautiful gods around, but now... he doesn't have lips anymore, revealing his teeth in a hideous grimace; his left eye has been gouged out and replaced with a chunk of crystal; what's left of his face is twisted into tortured leers by the hooks and extreme piercings pulling at his skin; a halo of metal spikes is embedded in his cranium, pulling his torn skin into a bloody sunburst; the back of his skull has been carved out to expose his brain; metal spikes are threaded under the skin of his arms; finally, most of his abdomen is just... gone, and black metal censers swing from chains attached to rings set around his exposed, bloody ribs. Understandably, even his worshippers prefer to just depict him as a gaunt man with a single major wound.
    • His champion as well, the great blue wyrm named Kazavon. He took over the Hold of Belkzen disguised as a human, then he went Vlad the Impaler on everyone. Besides that mess, there's the fact that, in a way, he's still alive. Bringing together the Relics of Kazavon will resurrect the dragon and... well, that's just one more way that Golarion is screwed.
    • One of his rituals, reserved for only the luckiest of Kuthites, is known as the "Joymaking". It consists of the Worshiper having their limbs and non-vital organs amputated so that they remain a helpless head and torso, destined to live the rest of their lives as the subjects of limitless torture.
  • Carrion Crown is a swift trip into the horror genre. What does it start with? A haunted prison, what else!
  • Scared of Hillbilly Horrors? Pathfinder takes the tropes and applies them to not one, but three kinds of giants.
    • First up, there's the ogres, from their first appearance in "The Hook Mountain Massacre". They're hideously deformed, rampantly incestuous, sadistic, murderous, cannibalistic monsters whose "society" revolves around essentially nothing more than food, sex and torture. Their idea of games include mig-a-mug-tug (grab each other by sensitive spots and yank as hard as you can; first one to collapse in pain loses) and man-swords (smash two humanoids together until they've been crushed to a pulp). Their genes are so polluted that not only are "ogrekin" invariably distorted and grotesque-looking, the ogre's genes effectively destroy the bloodline — an ogrekin can mate with humans, but nothing in their family tree will ever resemble a human again. Worse still, the rampant inbreeding ogres practice can eventually lead to them devolving into "degenerate ogres", creatures so foul and hideous that even other ogres think of them as primitive monstrosities. To say nothing of the mutations that can plague given clans, like the Shaggras, whose whole bodies are covered in carpets of thick, greasy, rank Prehensile Hair.
    • Then there's the hill giants, who are less incestuous, but still rampant cannibals, brutes and barbarians.
    • The marsh giants, meanwhile, are believed to have been hill giants... once. Now they're something so foul even ogres regard them with fear. They basically practice all of the same horrors as ogres, but with their own horrors on top of it. For example, not only do females spend so much time chewing on toxic mushrooms to enjoy the drugged out states that ensue they invariably either neglect their children or retard them with their poisoned milk, fathers and mothers typically eat their children, since their barbaric form of animism preaches that offspring are parasites of the soul. They also worship Dagon, adding some Lovecraftian cultist action to the mix.
  • The Qlippoth are Pathfinder's answers to the Obyriths. They are horrifically alien elder fiends — so old that when the oldest race in the cosmos, the Proteans, started to explore the multiverse soon after their creation, the Qlippoth were already there — that once ruled the Abyss before the coming of demonkind — and they want it back.
  • Pathfinder explicitly includes many creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos as part of its settings. Hounds of Tindalos, dimensional shamblers, gugs, denizens of Leng and their spider enemies, moonbeasts, shantaks, nightgaunts, shoggoths, elder things, flying polyps, bholes, mi-go... the list just keeps going on, and even includes some of the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods, like Hastur, Shub-Niggurath and Cthulhu himself.
    • Bestiary 5 adds the deep ones, of Innsmouth infamy. Deep ones who are explicitly capable of granting divine spells when they grow powerful and big enough. It's even worse if you happen to be a hybrid — the good news is that you have free will and won't be forced into an Always Chaotic Evil alignment by your transformation into the fishy side of your heritage. The bad news is, that's because the transformation actually kills you— horribly — and then reformats your body into a deep one who simply does not care about anyone you, the previous owner of its body, were close to, only their Religion of Evil. And it happens quite quickly, when you're 60. Oh, and it's implied they're the source of much of the aformentioned marsh giants' genetic pollution and mental degeneracy.
  • Kytons, in Dungeons & Dragons, were traditionally a minor fiendish race of minimal importance, chain-wrapped gaolers who dwelt upon the Lawful Evil planes of Acheron and Baator. In Pathfinder? Kytons are a race of sadomasochistic artists of Body Horror, Cenobite expies who rule the Plane of Shadow. And as they are now a major fiendish race, they now have a whole hierarchy of progressively more powerful, twisted forms, all the way to Kyton Demagogues.
  • Similarly, Pathfinder abandons the mercenary war-profiteering Yugoloths of Planescape for its own dark entities, the Daemons. Born as the embodiments of mortal deaths of all kinds — old age, murder, insanity, poison, pollution, etc — and ruled by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, these Neutral Evil fiends have but a single goal. Stemming back to the very depths of D&D Character Alignment lore, these monsters want but a single thing: the extermination of all life. They want to kill all of the gods, all of the planar races, all of the mortal races — they just want to kill and kill until there's nothing left but their own kind. And then, when The Multiverse is empty of all life except Daemonkind, they will turn on each other until only a single last solitary Daemon survives. That Daemon will bask in the utter emptiness... and then kill itself, as with nothing else to distract it, the fiend's hatred of its own existence is all that it has left to sate.
    • To drive the difference between the yugoloths and daemons home; in D&D, demons and devils are mostly concerned with fighting each other and yugoloths will act as mercenaries for either side — while there's some suggestion they're the real puppet masters behind the Blood War, they're mostly an afterthought as far as fiends go. Compare Pathfinder's Daemons, who are so evil and so dangerous that demons and devils will put aside their differences with each other and even with celestials to fight daemonic threats.
    • The Four Horsemen alone are worthy of an entry. They are the most powerful daemons in existence, meaning that they are the apex of what it means to be daemon-kind. They are powerful, cruel, and utterly relentless. Urgathoa, one of the most powerful goddesses in the entire setting, is wary of them, even as they allow her to live in their plane of Abaddon. She has good reason to be; The Four are notorious for Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, even among the divine. So how come they aren't wiped out yet? The answer is two-fold: on top of being smart enough to be useful to other gods, each of the horsemen are utterly terrifying in their own right. To wit;
      • Apollyon, Horseman of Pestilence, came into power when his predecessor went missing in the Maelstrom. What followed could only be described as a massacre as Apollyon tore through all challengers for the title of Horseman. His violence did not cease after he gained the title, though; the most notable part of his wardrobe is a cloak made from dozens of angels that failed to slay him. On top of being a brutal combatant, he is also the divine equivalent of a bioterrorist, creating numerous plagues and viruses that kill in multitudes.
      • Charon, Horseman of Death, practically owns the River of Souls in all but name. His Thanadaemons offer safe travel around the mind-breaking torrents, but there's always some sort of a price. He is the only Horseman of Death there has ever been, having fended off all other would-be usurpers. He brokered the deal with Urgathoa and Zyphus to live in their plane of Abbadon, keeping a close eye on both deities as they dwell there. A shrewd deal-broker and tactician, he is also a wicked inventor, once creating a device so powerful and efficient in exterminating life that it horrified and repulsed Asmodeus. He acts the part of the most reasonable Horseman, being open to deals with mortals and far less likely to kill them outright, but this is a deadly ruse - Charon is every bit as murderous and hateful as his kin, he's just more patient. Each and every service he renders or deal he makes, no matter how benign it seems, is one tiny step closer to the end of everything.
      • Szuriel, Horseman of War, rents out her daemonic armies to other fiendish purposes: in return, her armies get to eat the souls of their enemies. She has experience with armies, as well: before her ascension to godhood, she betrayed the church she worshiped as a mortal after she was excommunicated. How bad was the betrayal? She had every single member of her former faith crucified as she crowned herself empress of the nation. Even after her assassination, she still has a loyal army willing to fight to the death... and for it. When she sells her armies' services to mortals, she drives her hapless clients to genocidal excesses against their enemies before betraying and massacring them. Szuriel, her cults, and her armies all work to devolve every war they start or enter into torture, murder, atrocity, and finally genocide.
      • Finally, Trelmarixian the Black, Horseman of Famine, was a mortal tiefling who managed to kick off a Class 5 apocalypse, causing everyone on his planet to starve to death, himself included. His madness persists even after his expiration, as he personally devoured his predecessor, Lyutheria the Parasite Queen, just as he became her most trusted harbinger. But even as he bears the title of Horseman, Lyutheria lives on in his mind, exacerbating his madness and corrupting him even further.
    • Practically all of the Daemonic deities are bad news, but Folca is particularly nasty. He’s the Daemonic Harbinger of Strangers, Sweets, and Abduction. He’s practically the patron deity of pedophiles in Golarion. But we’re not done with him yet; in order for his worshippers to receieve any fiendish boons from him, they have to stalk a child, make them witness a horrifically brutal event, or worse, assault a child themselves, and tell the poor kid they’ll come back for him next. Last but not least is his artwork in The Book of the Damned: he’s pretty much The Slender Man but with a bloody sack to carry around kids... that he doesn’t need, since the hands of those kids he kidnaps bulge out of his skin. Oh, and he carries around pieces of candy to lure kids in. Go ahead. Take one.
  • We all know the derro: insane dwarf equivalents, they were already freaky enough to get even the Drow squicked out about them. When Pathfinder gets its hands on them, what more can it do? Well, for starters, it can make them degenerate expies of the worst interpretations of The Greys, with luminous eyes and frazzled hair, complicit in cattle mutilation and kidnapping. And the worst part? Now, they live right under cities. Not to mention the unfortunate fact that those victims they return don't remember their own absence but for bad dreams...
  • The third-party book "Path of War" gives us the Black Seraph discipline, a fighting style where literally anything goes. Attacks include kicking enemies in the guts to make them nauseous, snapping their tendons so they can't escape, and launches a flurry of blows that will not only kill them, but mess up their body to the point where revival would be impossible as they are too badly mangled to survive. Now let's say it loud: Omae wa mou shindeiru.
  • Far out in space (but not nearly far enough) is a galaxy-spanning empire known as the Dominion of the Black. Even the mi-go don't go into the Dominion, and even the Outer Gods call them enemies. These beings are creators of synthetic plagues and generators of monstrous aberrations who regard humanoids as a handy source of spare parts. Their usual method of space travel is to crash-land their living ships on the destination world and leave the ship to go insane as it slowly decays. They enslave worlds in order to harvest organs from fleshfarms or draw psychic energy from entire plantations of brains-in-a-jar. They worship annihilation as if it were a god — their religious festivals involve a fleet hanging around outside a black hole's event horizon, intoning hymns of praise as the most devout of the pilgrims hurl themselves in. So far, they haven't paid much attention to the technologically backward, undesirable planet known as Golarion. So far.
  • The planet of Aucturn, in general. This dark planet is a gigantic living being, populated by beings usually associated with the Cthulhu Mythos and/or the Dominion of the Black. Dark cities and cathedrals dot the planet, all dedicated to Dark Forces. A valley, full of sickly, cloying mists, is called "The Loving Place". So called because it's just about the one place on the planet where the denizens are unlikely to eat, sacrifice, or simply murder travelers. What the dwellers have in mind there is so, so much worse... speaking of which, the planet itself is possibly pregnant, too. There's a gigantic bulge on its surface that is thought to be a mountain-sized tumor, but which may very well be a swelling where something awful is gestating under the planet's surface. And Aucturn's coming ever so closer to Golarion...
  • Ironfang Invasion, while boasting a more classic variety of evil, certainly has its fair share of spine-chilling moments:
    • Why don't we start with the beginning of the adventure path, where the players' current abode (and possibly hometown) is suddenly and brutally invaded by an army of hobgoblins? The entire encounter is designed to be impossible to win: the best the party can do is run and hide in the nearby Fangwood Forest as their homes and livelihoods are burned to the ground. Furthermore, if some of the players decided to be from Phaendar, it's very likely that their friends or loved ones are either dead or have been taken as slaves, making this a hell of a Player Punch. You Can't Go Home Again, indeed.
    • After living off the land for days to weeks and doing their best to evade the various Ironfang patrols after them — which is in and of itself a pretty harrowing experience — the party will have to deal with the Bounty Hunter Scarvinious. Simply put, this guy is bad news. His camp is called "Camp Red Jaw" because his predecessor had his jaw ripped off by Scarvinious' father for failing to capture the fugitives. Scarvinious took the jaw, attached it to a pole and uses it as his standard. Oh, and he's a monstrous sadist, preferring to take his victims alive so he can torture them for as long as possible before they finally die. His tent is called the "hut of screams", and it's made of flayed humanoid skin.
  • That's a really pretty coin you have there. Oh, what's that? You stole it from Erebus, the Third Layer of Hell? That means that Mammon gets to pay you a visit through the coin. Don't try getting rid of the coin by ingesting it, though. Mammon can get around that too...
  • The Sahkil species of outsiders are this trope incarnate. Once Psychopomps devoted to the natural order of life and death, the sahkils fled to darkest reaches of the ethereal plane where they stalk the denizens of the material plane. Their time there has transformed them into something horrific, with each form varying from entities such as the maggot-infested nucols to the gigantic skull-bearing kimenuhls. These mutations are deliberate, of course, as they thrive off of the continual terror of their prey. But the worst part of them is that they have friends, ranging from the omnicidal daemons and divs to the pain-loving kytons.