Monstrous Physique — Nahual

¡Saludos desde México! I’m currently in Guadalajara for business. However, that won’t stop me from sharing monsters with you. There are monsters all over the world and this time, I present you something with roots in Aztec and Maya mythology. Let’s take a look at the mystical, nahual.


Representations of transforming nahual.

Nahual Warrior           CR 1/2
XP 200
Nahual fighter 1
N Medium humanoid (nahual)
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +3
AC 15, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +2 Dex)
hp 12 (1d10+2)
Fort +6, Ref +2, Will –1
Speed 30 ft.
Melee longsword +4 (1d8+3/19–20) or shortspear +3 (1d6+3)
Ranged longbow +3 (1d8/x3)
Str 17, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 6
Base Atk +1; CMB +4; CMD 16
Feats Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Skills Perception +3, Stealth +6
Languages Common
SQ animal transformation, natural force, stalker
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds, alchemist’s fire, masterwork arrows (3), smokestick; Other Gear masterwork studded leather, longbow with 20 arrows, longsword, shortspear, 15 gp
Environment any
Organization solitary, pair, or pack (3–6)
Treasure NPC gear
Animal Transformation (Su) Once per day, a nahual can transform into an animal as per beast shape II. A nahual can only transform into a crocodileB1, monitor lizardB1, constrictor snakeB1, stagB4, weaselB1, riding dogB1, monkeyB1, leopardB1, eagleB1, or vultureB3. A nahual does not choose which animal it transforms into. Every time it transforms, it transforms either into its most recent animal or into the next animal in the above list. For example, if a nahual transforms into a monkey today, it can transform into a monkey or a leopard tomorrow when using this ability. The first time a nahual uses this ability, roll a d10 to determine which transformation it has available.
Natural Force (Su) Once per day, a nahual has access to a particular spell-like ability, treating its hit dice as its caster level. A nahual casts gust of wind, tiny hut, inflict moderate wounds, hydraulic torrentAPG, sickening entanglement, water breathing, stone shape, twilight knifeAPG, sleet storm, or plant growth. Every day after resting, a nahual chooses to either keep its current spell-like ability or choose the next spell in the above list. For example, if a nahual casts water breathing today, it can choose to keep water breathing or gain access to stone shape tomorrow. The first time a nahual uses this ability, roll a d10 to determine which spell-like ability it has available.

Nahual are an offshoot of humanity tied to the powers of nature. In the dawn of days when humanity was first blazing its own path in the world, parts of humanity set forth to begin the first true civilizations while others stayed behind, content to continue living their lives among nature. The humans the left lost their ties to the natural world, but gained the power of will, able to forge their own destiny. Those who remained were blessed by the world, given a piece of nature’s power and granted the right of kinship among the animals. These humans took the name nahual, meaning “nature’s magician.”
Today, descendants of nahual keep the name and tradition of their ancestors, but have lost much of the power their people once held. Instead, as they reach adulthood, nahual choose to focus either their bodies or their minds on particular aspects of nature, either the bestial or the elemental. This focus provides great power to the nahual, but at the cost of losing connection to the other. While nahual understand this process, there is a natural divide between the two camps of nahual as the.. two mindsets can cause disagreements and disruptions.
On the surface, nahual look similar to humans. However, their ties to the natural world are apparent to keen observers. A nahual’s body takes on aspects of either animals or the elements, depending on their spiritual focus. Nahual eyes typically take on the shapes of their currently attuned animal and their skin is covered in small patches of scales or fur. Elementally attuned nahual sport strange effects in the irises of their eyes, such as rolling storm clouds or fluttering leaves.
Among the other races of the worlds, nahual are generally seen with some suspicion. As they are in tune with nature in a way that is rarely seen beyond druids and shamans, many nahual are seen as mages with the intent of bringing back the rule of nature. They live normally among humans, are tolerated by elves and halflings, and somewhat distrusted by dwarves. Gnomes, with their similar ties to nature, get along well with nahual. Skinwalkers also have a good relationship with nahual, noting that the nahual tied to the animal realm provides a sort of kinship with the lycanthropic children.


Nahual transforming into a jaguar.

Nahual Characters (13 RP)
Nahual are defined by class levels—they don’t have racial Hit Dice. Nahual have the following racial traits.
+4 to one score, –2 to either physical or mental scores (2 RP): Nahual choose to focus their bodies or their spirits to the essence of nature. Choosing the body provides a nahual greater strength, but their more animalistic urges tend to overtake their minds. Choosing the spirit allows a nahual to tap in to the knowledge and commanding forces of natures, but precludes the raw physical power that nature can grant. Nahual choose a single ability score to increase. If the bonus is to a single physical ability score, the penalties apply to all mental ability scores, and vice versa.
Medium: Nahual are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Normal Speed: Nahual have a base speed of 30 feet.
Animal Transformation (4 RP): See above.
Low-light Vision (1 RP): Nahual can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
Natural Force (5 RP): See above.
Stalker (1 RP): Perception and Stealth are always class skills for nahual.
Languages: Nahual begin play knowing Common. Nahual with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following languages: Aklo, Elven, Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

In Your Game

Rise of Nature
A local druid terrorizes the local populace, threatening to put an end to civilization in a particular region. The druid is ancient and knows many forgotten spells and rituals unlike anyone has ever seen. It is up to the PCs to locate a hidden nahual village and convince its people to use their ancient ties to nature to fight back against the druid.

The Chosen
A nahual shaman leads a cult of humans convinced that the shaman is their key to returning to the natural ways. The PCs are caught in the middle as they are captured by the cultists. The PCs must escape and put a stop to the dark sacrifice that would kill dozens of innocent people to call forth a nature spirit. If left unchecked, the spirit will transform all the people in the land into animals.

The Lost Spirit
The PCs meet a nahual seeking their assistance. The nahual explains that she has reincarnated many times as different animals, the ten nahual creatures, in fact. Her nahual form is now the final test before her soul may be liberated to live eternally in the afterlife. The PCs must escort the nahual as she travels the world, visiting the site of her past lives and keep her safe so she can complete her journey.

Monstrous Origins

The nahual or nagual are humans from mesoamerican folklore with the power to transform into animals. Nahual are not inherently good or evil, using their powers as any human would based on their respective personalities. Depending on where one lives, nahual are sometimes seen as more malevolent. In Mexico, for example, nahual are associated with witches or wizards and are said to cause disease or drink the blood of people.
The abilities of the nahual point at a few different possibilities. Rather than just making another beast-like creature, which would step on the toes of the skinwalker, I went with a more magical route. The animal that a nahual transforms into is said to be based on what day the person is born. The Aztec calendar, for example, has 20 different days to choose from, of which there are 10 possible animals. It would take a lot of work to create 20 varieties of nahual, so that’s where the rotating abilities came from. The transformation ability cycles between the ten animals and the spell-like abilities cycles between ten spells that represent the ten remaining days. I also though it would be an interesting choice for nahual characters to have a favored form or spell and have to choose to move to something more favorable later.
I could have made another monster, but I quite like mixing things up here at Monstrous Physique. This time, we have a playable race. There is a bit more work with making sure a race is something that is interesting, exciting, flavorful, but also balanced. Thankfully, the race builder in the Advanced Race Guide helps with keeping things reined in. The transformation and SLAs don’t really have an RP equivalent, so it’s more eyeballed in regards to relative usefulness and power in comparison to the normal SLA race trait. The spells are all either second or third level spells and attempt to be balanced by using character level for caster level. In the end, nahual are, by my judgement, a little stronger than a core race, but the power will probably drop off at higher levels.

That’s it for this week! Please let me know if you would like to seem more playable races in the future. I’d be happy to try to tap into other cultures to find more races! If you end up adding the nahual into your game, you play a nahual, or you have any request for a future Monstrous Physique, please drop me a line at

Luis Loza

Luis Loza is a developer at Paizo, working on the Pathfinder Lost Omens line and formerly on 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 his cat, and walks with his wife. He is eternally plagued with a hunger for tacos. Consider checking his material on his Patreon at