This cloud of thick black smoke crackles as flashes of electricity illuminate it from within, but it whirs as if mechanical.
Smoke Sentinel CR 9
Str —, Dex 21, Con —, Int 10, Wis 20, Cha 23
Base Atk +9; CMB +11; CMD 33 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Ability Focus (engulf), Dodge, Improved Initiative, Toughness, Weapon Finesse
Skills Fly +9, Perception +14, Stealth +6
Languages tongues (can’t speak in natural form)
SQ change shape (Small or Medium humanoid, alter self), tethered
A smoke sentinel can engulf creatures in its path as a standard action. The smoke sentinel merely has to move over its opponents, and it affects as many creatures as it can cover. It cannot make other attacks during a round in which it engulfs a creature. A targeted creature can make an attack of opportunity against the smoke sentinel, but if it does so, it is not entitled to a saving throw against the engulf attack. A creature that does not make an attack of opportunity can attempt a DC 21 Reflex saving throw to avoid being engulfed; on a success, it is pushed back or aside (target’s choice) as the smoke sentinel moves forward. An engulfed creature takes 1d6 points of Wisdom damage at the start of its turn each round it remains within the smoke sentinel’s space. The save DC is Dexterity-based and includes a +2 racial bonus.
A smoke sentinel can pass through small holes and even cracks without reducing its speed. It cannot enter water or other liquids. It has no Strength score and cannot manipulate objects. Its gaseous form renders the smoke sentinel immune to all non-magical attack forms.
Even when hit by spells or magic weapons, it takes only half damage. Spells and effects that do not deal damage have only a 50% chance of affecting a smoke sentinel. A smoke sentinel has no natural armor bonus, but it has a deflection bonus equal to its Charisma bonus.
A smoke sentinel is tethered to a hollow physical object (usually a small box or totem) from which it can travel no farther than 1 mile. An intelligent creature who holds the construct’s tether for at least 1 hour gains the ability to control the smoke sentinel as though it were the target of a dominate monster spell. This control lasts until another intelligent creature holds the tether for an hour or more, whereupon that creature gains control of the construct. If its controller dies or otherwise ceases to command the smoke sentinel, the construct continues carrying out its most recent command. Should its last command be a finite task, the smoke sentinel reverts to the role of guardian when finished, keeping potential threats away from the site of its tether. A smoke sentinel can compress to fit within its tether as a full-round action. While in the tether, it recovers from damage at a rate of 1 hit point per hour.
Environment temperate or warm forests
Smoke sentinels are clouds of sentient black smoke that protect isolated ruins. As amorphous clouds, smoke sentinels have no distinguishing features, but they often extend their bodies into long tendrils that slither along the ground like hungry vines. No matter how thin a smoke sentinel may make its form, its smoke remains thick and opaque, hiding everything within it from view. Though the strange electrical energy that courses through its body crackles and arcs, the resulting illumination provides no insight into what may lie at the cloud’s heart.
A smoke sentinel usually attempts to determine an intruder’s intentions through use of its see alignment and detect thoughts spell-like abilities. It may take the form of a trusted associate or loved one in order to further interact with the trespasser and bring deeper thoughts and motivations to the creature’s surface thoughts. Unless directly threatened or certain that the target of its investigation poses a threat to its master or other sworn charge, the smoke sentinel employs illusions and fear to confuse and frighten the interloper away. Only in extreme cases or when instructed to do so does the construct use its deadly physical attacks.
While it can compress and condense its form to fit into incredibly small spaces, a smoke sentinel most often appears as a weightless cloud occupying approximately 3,500 cubic feet of space.
Smoke sentinels were created through magical means to serve as resolute sentries of their creators’ homes, protecting inhabitants and their livelihoods from attackers and raiders. Smoke sentinels do not need to eat, sleep, or breathe, and they can compress to fit into extremely small spaces due to their gaseous nature.
Smoke sentinels do not age, though as they grow accustomed to their land and as they see creatures and people they were meant to protect slowly die off, they are prone to becoming overprotective. Each smoke sentinel is created along with an artifact that anchors it to a specific spot. If it moves more than a mile from this tether, it loses control of its physical form, and if kept beyond this range for too long, it might disperse completely. As such, smoke sentinels are careful about the range of their patrols.
Despite their gaseous nature, smoke sentinels are capable of coalescing the smoke that makes up their bodies into clawlike tendrils to protect themselves.
A smoke sentinel often reveals its presence with whirring, almost mechanical noises that permeate the air as it approaches.
Habitat and Society
Smoke sentinels are most often depicted in ancient texts as benign creatures that warded off invaders and helped their culture flourish in times of great struggle. While many in the modern day consider smoke sentinels to be extremely dangerous, the creatures do not murder without cause. If someone takes a relic from its creator, desecrates a corpse, or steps onto ground its programming denotes as hallowed, a smoke sentinel seeks only to right that wrong.
At the peak of an ancient civilization, smoke sentinels took the forms of warriors and patrolled the borders of towns and cities to ward off invaders. They were considered great protectors, and they were occasionally used in armies as a way to induce terror in enemy ranks.
There are few examples of rogue smoke sentinels in history, but some priests with delusions of grandeur or revenge fresh on their minds, created smoke sentinels not as protectors, but as tools for assassination and sabotage. However, once such a smoke sentinel completed its mission—and it would inevitably complete its mission—the construct would return to its tether not to regenerate but to destroy the artifact in a form of construct suicide. This raised an ethical concern: Are smoke sentinels truly just constructs, built only to serve a singular purpose? Or do they have consciousness, a soul? This ethical dilemma eventually led to the practice of using smoke sentinels falling out of favor, and even being banned completely in some regions.
While many secrets of technology have been recovered from the depths of time, expert golemcrafters have yet to reverse engineer the means of building a smoke sentinel and tether. Current theories postulate that unique ioun stones must be utilized in the creation process, though what shape or color these ioun stones need to take remains a mystery.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #122: Into the Shattered Continent © 2017, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Robert Brookes, with Ayla Arthur, Adam Daigle, Lucas J.W. Johnson, Robin Loutzenhiser, Ron Lundeen, and Mark Moreland.