Monstrous Physique: Horla

Gen Con is coming and with it, the release of Horror Adventures! With this in mind, I decided now is a good time for things to get a bit spooky. This week and again with the next entry of Monstrous Physique, I’m going to dip into something a bit more horrifying. For this entry, we’ll be looking at a monster that, in a sense, inspired the Strange Aeons Adventure Path, the horla.

horla

A figure seems to hide among wisps of light. The figure is unclear and imperceptible, but appears to be an emaciated humanoid.

Horla                               CR 6
XP 2,400
NE Medium abberation (extraplanar)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13
DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 13, flat-footed 15 (+3 Dex, +5 natural)
hp 76 (9d8+36)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +9
Defensive Abilities imperceptibility; Immune mind-affecting; Weaknesses unquenchable thirst
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee bite +10 (2d6+3), 2 claws +10 (1d8+3 plus grab)
Special Attacks steal breath
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 9th; concentration +10)
At will—command (DC 12)
3/day—suggestion (DC 13)
1/week—geas, lesser (DC 15)
STATISTICS
Str 17, Dex 16, Con 18, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 13
Base Atk +6; CMB +9 (+13 grapple); CMD 22
Feats Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Iron Will, Weapon Focus (bite, claws)
Skills Knowledge (planes) +11, Perception +13, Stealth +15
Languages telepathy 30 ft.
ECOLOGY
Environment any
Organization solitary
Treasure none
SPECIAL ABILITIES
Imperceptibility (Ex) A horla is night undetectable as it moves around. Creatures more than 5 feet away from a horla cannot see the horla as if it were affected by invisibility. Creatures adjacent to the horla can see the horla as a haunting, faintly image, which provides the horla with concealment.
Steal Breath (Ex) A horla knows the alien process of seperating a creature’s life force from the creature’s own breath. As a standard action, the horla steal’s the breath of one adjacent, unsconcious creature. The creature must succeed on a DC 15 Fortitude save or take 1 point of Constitution drain and become fatigued for 24 hours after it wakes. If the creature succeeds the save and was not affected by a magical sleep effect, it immediately wakes. Regardless, of wether the creature saves, the horla gains 5 temporary hit points. These temporary hit points do not stack. The save DC is Wisdom-based.
Unquenchable Thirst (Ex) A horla constantly thirsts and seeks to drink as much liquid as it is able. A horla that is within 60 feet of water must succeed on a DC 18 Will save or be compelled to drink the water. If the horla is attacked, it breaks this compulsion until its agressor is gone or slain. A horla can drink up to one quart of water as a standard action. After a horla consumes one gallon of water, it is immune to this ability for one hour.

Horlas are alien beings that serve as living portents of far worse creatures that wait for the world, hidden within the darkness the lies between the stars. Horlas arrive as the vanguards of beings yet to cast their gaze on other worlds. They work as scouts and to prepare these worlds if the horlas deem them suitable for their eldritch masters. Horlas work alone, seeking individuals they feel will either serve to further their masters’ needs or would work against their will. Those who seem like a suitable fit for their work are slowly and subtly manipulated to seek out ancient artifacts and lost knowledge to help call forth other alien beings to the world. Those who would oppose these alien creatures instead slowly waste away, consumed by the horla as they slip into illness and madness. A horla stands 6 feet tall and weighs 90 pounds.

In Your Game

The Eternal Thirst
The local wells, fountains, and dams are drying up and no one has an explanation as to why. With some searching, the PCs find a number of strange, tracks that point towards a large number of horlas in the region. Why have the horlas chosen this place as their focus and what does it mean for the citizens?

The Living Dream
A number of people in the region all fell into a coma on the same night. Reports of strange, skeletal figures resting on these people’s chests bring the PCs around to investigate. They soon learn that the people are part of a massive ritual enacted by horlas, which tie the unconscious minds of all the people into a singular mindscape of which there is seemingly no escape.

Those Who Should Not Be
An increase in horla sightings prompts the PCs to probe for answers. Eventually, a group of horlas reveal their true purpose: they bring a warning. Something other than their alien masters has shifted its gaze towards this world. It is up to the PCs to work with the horlas to stop the terrible entities and strike a bargain with ancient beings to spare the world.

Monstrous Origins

The horla comes from an 1887 French short story of the same name. In the tale, the author is haunted by restlessness and feelings of madness. He questions his sanity as strange occurrences continue around him. Eventually, the man learns of the horla, a creature that feeds on people as they sleep, similar to a vampire. This tale is cited as an inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos stories, which serve as the inspiration for a number of works, including the Strange Aeons Adventure Path.

With this inspiration in mind, I decided to create the horla as another mythos-esque being, preparing a world for the coming of the Great Old Ones. I twisted the horla’s suggestive abilities to influence humans towards the creation of the ubiquitous cults in Lovecraft’s tales. In the short story, the horla is more of a ghost-like apparition and to nod back to that, I gave the horla its imperceptibility ability. Additionally, the short story features various instances of the horla drinking the author’s water while he sleeps, which inspired the thirst weaknesses that my horla has here.

That’s it for the first of my two horrifying creatures. Please let me know what you think. If you end up using the horla in your game, especially a Strange Aeons game, or you have any request for a future Monstrous Physique, please drop me a line at KnowDirection@hotmail.com.

Luis Loza

Luis Loza is a developer at Paizo, working on the Pathfinder Campaign Setting and Player Companion lines. He's done freelance for Paizo Inc, Legendary Games, Rogue Genius Games, and more third-party publishers. His hobbies include gaming both tabletop and video, making jokes, obsessing over time travel, taking naps with Nova the cat, and walks with Heather the wife. He is eternally plagued with a hunger for tacos.

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