Everyone has their own take on what makes a good campaign. Ask around the community and you’ll hear all sorts of things, including a solid grasp on the system’s mechanics, engaging worldbuilding, efficient notetaking, and the patience needed to herd a gang of loot-crazed murder hobos through the unfortunate world that you’ve unleased them upon.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that one of my favorite parts is clever use of monsters. Sure, the frequency and overall challenge of encounters can dictate the pace of the campaign, but there’s a lot of potential in the thematic ties. Monsters add theming that can go with or against the feel of your campaign. Their abilities can shift it towards horror and gritty survival, or bring aspects of conspiracies and intrigue to the forefront, or even cap off a long-standing battle against the manifestation of funny internet cat photos.
But it gets really interesting when you flip it around. Ask not what your monsters can do for your campaign, but what your campaign can do for your monsters.
Hello and welcome to Eldritch Excursion, the blog that explores the intersections of flavor and mechanics in everything from man-made horrors beyond comprehension to happy little guys with boopable snoots. Today we’re going to reach through the canon-preserving Tupperware of the Gap to pull one of my favorite monsters from the fantasy setting of Pathfinder into the science fantasy setting of Starfinder.
The medusa is a classic monster with a simple premise. An evil, wretched thing whose gaze turns all before them into stone. Reclusive by necessity, they usually only interact with society when they’re taking something by force or through manipulation. A creature that commits to antisocial behavior while being physically unable to carry on a face-to-face conversation is a fairly simple concept to understand.
Now add the wonders of technology and all of the options that come with it. Gaze attacks are still a problem for in-person interactions, and it can even transfer through cameras, but those aren’t the only options available. Chat rooms, voice calls, and even video with embarrassingly tacky face filters are just some of the tools available to a modern medusa who seeks to involve herself with society. This enables any willing medusa to break out of their chicken-and-the-egg mindset where their petrifying presence makes it difficult to engage in society, which forces them to lean into villainous deeds, which in turn are enabled by their deadly gaze. In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine their kind embracing the opportunity of a digital life in its variety of forms.
Am I implying the existence of medusa VTubers in Starfinder? No, I’m demanding it.
But let’s start with a basic conversion.
Medusa [Expert] CR 7
LE Medium monstrous humanoid
Init +2; Senses Darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +14
DEFENSE HP 100
EAC 19, KAK 20
Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +12
Speed 30 ft.
Melee snake bite +14 (1d8+6 P plus serpent venom)
Ranged tactical seeker rifle +16 (2d8+7 P)
Offensive Abilities petrifying gaze (30 ft., Fort DC 17), serpent venom (Fort DC 17),
Str -1; Dex +4; Con +1; Int +2; Wis 0; Cha +5
Skills Acrobatics +14, Bluff +19, Computers +14, Disguise +19, Intimidate +19
Gear estex suit III, tactical seeker rifle with 50 rounds
Petrifying Gaze (Su) The gaze of a medusa can turn a creature to stone. If a living creature fails its save against the medusa’s gaze, it takes 1d6 Dexterity damage and becomes staggered for 1 round as its body begins to petrify. If a creature is reduced to 0 Dexterity by this gaze, or fails its Fortitude save while at 0 Dexterity, the target turns to stone. This effect is similar to the flesh to stone spell, except it cannot be used to return a creature to flesh. Completely destroying the statue will also kill the petrified creature.
Serpent Venom (Ex) The serpents that form the medusa’s hair carry a potent venom.
Type poison (injury); Save Fortitude DC 17
Track Strength; Frequency 1/round for 5 rounds
Cure 1 save
With the power enemies to stone, some among the medusa species have found work as assassins and mercenaries. Those who carry old traditions might pursue the life of a criminal mastermind, working though agents and aliases to get what they want. Among a medusa’s most prized possessions are their most ostentatious valuables and the petrified remains of their previous owners.
It’s sometimes said that a medusa has a heart of stone. While they’ve done much to dispel the metaphorical truth to that statement, it does not change the fact that their hearts are literally made of stone. Such a heart can be harvested and implanted into a new host as a magitech augmentation.
Stoneheart [SYSTEM: Heart]
Price 6,900 Level 7
These hardened hearts are still contractile and capable of circulating blood, magically enhancing the vital fluids to resist ailments of the body. The stoneheart grants you a +1 insight bonus to Fortitude saves against poisons and effects that would immobilize you. Once per day when you fail a Fortitude save against an effect that would petrify or paralyze you, the heart desperately pumps purified blood through your system, allowing you to reroll the saving throw. You must keep the new result.
And now that we have our basics, let’s consider what a medusa might look like after embracing society in their own special way. If you’d like to make a medusa that’s more likely to be a friendly minor celebrity than a stone-cold dealer in contraband, consider shifting their alignment to Chaotic Good and adding the envoy class graft with these three improvisations. Medusa icons are likely to go through special surgeries or wear protective equipment to prevent accidentally harming their fans, so the petrifying gaze ability can be left behind. Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and Profession (video personality) make for fitting master skills, and Computers is also an important part of their lifestyle.
Alright, that should be enough to get you started on throwing some snake girls into your home campaign’s Livesteam Fail Compilation subplot. I still want to hash out something a bit more player-focused, so come back next time and I’ll do my part in the holy crusade to add more monstergirl content to tabletop gaming.