This winged monster has the body of a lion, though two more heads flank its central feline one—a dragon and a horned goat.
AC 19, touch 10, flat-footed 18 (+1 Dex, +9 natural, –1 size)
Speed 30 ft., fly 50 ft. (poor)
Str 19, Dex 12, Con 17, Int 4, Wis 13, Cha 10
A chimera’s breath weapon depends on the color of its dragon head, as summarized on the table below. Regardless of its type, a chimera’s breath weapon is usable once every 1d4 rounds, deals 6d8 points of damage, and allows a DC 17 Reflex save for half damage. The save DC is Constitution-based.
To determine a chimera’s head color and breath weapon randomly, roll 1d10 and consult the table below:
Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art (c) Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games
Environment temperate hills
Organization solitary, pair, pride (3–6), or flight (7–12)
Chimeras are monstrous creatures born of primordial evil. Hateful and hungry, they hunt on the ground or in the air. A chimera’s dragon head may be of any evil dragon type, with the corresponding breath weapon, and its wings usually match the scales on its head. Chimeras speak with three overlapping voices, but rarely do so, typically only when playing toady to a more powerful creature. A chimera is 5 feet tall at the shoulder, nearly 10 feet long, and weighs 700 pounds.
Chimeras prefer meat but can subsist on vegetable matter if necessary (although being forced to do so generally leaves the beasts more ill-tempered than usual). Their flight means they can pick and choose their prey, and they usually hunt a large area in search of easy food. They are too stupid and belligerent to acquire followers, though sometimes a tribe of kobolds might give them offerings. Conversely, they are just intelligent and stubborn enough that they make poor pets, and only a significantly more powerful creature can keep them submissive. They may form equal partnerships with a respectful humanoid or similar creature, and even consent to be used as a mount. A pride of chimeras is very leonine in its hierarchy, with a dominant male leading the group and most of the hunting done by the females. A solitary chimera may be a young male or a female with cubs nearby.
The chimera is an evil creature of mysterious origin, resembling a great lion with its head flanked on one side by the head of a chromatic dragon, and on the other by the head of a goat . Upon its shoulders, a chimera possesses a pair of scaly leathery wings, and its tail is similarly scaled, matching the color of its draconic head. The chimera’s legend is possibly even more powerful than the strange beast itself, perhaps because tales about it always grow in the telling. The creature is so strangely stitched together that seemingly any story about it is believable. Rumors, myths, fireside stories, and travelers’ tales fill in gaps about what a chimera might be or what it could do, and none seem impossible or unlikely for a beast of such bizarre qualities. It has so many and such varied features that each one gains its own embellishment, until the creature becomes an epic tapestry of monstrous menace and brutal hatred, ideas which in and of themselves are not entirely divorced from the reality of the chimera, regardless of how inaccurate the specifics may be. Its name has become a byword among doubters, skeptics, and naysayers, who refer to anything that seems impossible, fanciful, or overly embellished as chimerical, for surely nothing in the world could possibly be all the dubious things perpetuators of the chimera myth claim the monster to be. Nonetheless, lingering in the back of even the most cynical individuals’ minds is the knowledge that whatever the chimera is, it must be a truly horrifying beast to garner such extravagant fables.
Skeptics are correct in thinking that the tales of the chimera do in fact outstrip the reality. A chimera can speak, but it is only barely intelligent, able to do little more than curse, bluster, threaten, or (when tamed by a mightier power) complain. Chimeras are cunning enough to set rudimentary traps and create ambushes, but, while effective, their tactics are crude at best. They can fly, but clumsily and without grace. They are fierce in battle when they have the advantage, but if bloodied are apt to retreat in search of easier prey. They are not so much cowardly as they are indolent, content to scavenge rather than hunt if easy food does not present itself. Chimeras graze and gnaw plants down to the ground, despoiling fertile lands with their great hunger when they choose not to do so with their caustic breath. A chimera is always on the prowl for bigger and better prey, however, and when hungry will attack just about any creature smaller than itself.
Despite all these coarse qualities, a chimera is highly adaptable, able to survive in the midst of desolation, and in possession of a hateful cunning. Its savage brain is just bright enough to remember an attacker and seek revenge, clever enough not to fall for the same trick twice, and social enough to gather together in prides when overwhelming an enemy is the best way to win a fight.
Chimeras are born of primordial evil, not the result of accidental creation but rather the mad design of a chthonic mother of monsters who knit together the first chimera within her own womb. She sought to create a hunter, but one that would survive on green grass and dry thorn bush when prey was scarce. It would both fly and run. It would spot enemies from afar and slink stealthily through the grass. It would be smart enough to outwit any animal, and fierce enough to outfight any humanoid, with voice enough to taunt and berate those foolish enough to hunt it. She melded the hungry lion, the fecund goat, and the raging dragon into a single beast, a deranged composite that included everything it would need to survive wherever it went. She even created them to be hermaphroditic, alternately male or female as the situation demanded, birthing eggs of hard stony shells; any egg-hunter would think these eggs were merely unappetizing rocks, but heated beneath their parent’s burning belly, the eggs would incubate until they cracked open, revealing winged, many-headed cubs slathered in dark amniotic fluid.
While chimeras habitually hunt from the air, they are not strong or agile flyers, and thus typically avoid high and windy mountains where the air is cold and thin, as well as heavily forested areas filled with obstacles to hinder their movement. However, chimeras thrive in jagged and craggy badlands rife with plunging canyons, soaring natural arches and spires, and broken terrain carpeted with scrub-lands in which they can take cover and lie in ambush. Bursting from its hiding place, a chimera feels no shame in fighting dirty, whipping sand and grit into a blinding storm while blasting prey with its magical breath. Should any survive its initial onslaught, a chimera tries to isolate one victim to carry off for later feasting, taking maximum advantage of the terrain by flying across ravines and over cliffs so enemies cannot follow. Chimeras are also clever enough to create crude traps for their victims, preparing landslides or deadfalls to unleash onto travelers below their aeries, afterward swooping down to pick off survivors as they dig themselves out. Though savage and cruel, chimeras are generally more interested in a good meal than a hard fight, and would rather disable a single opponent and fly off with the spoils than divide their efforts between multiple targets.
While it has three heads, a chimera has only a single consciousness that links them. Chimeras are no more resistant to mind-affecting effects than other creatures, and their heads speak with a single mind and voice, never arguing with each other. While the damage dealt by a chimera’s breath weapon depends upon the color of its dragon head, it can disgorge this deadly emission from any of its three mouths. Chimeras can live up to 200 years, but most are slain by their own kind or by more powerful creatures before well then.
Chimeras are social creatures, living in leonine prides led by a single dominant female that rules over a pack of male hunters. While chimeras were created to be true hermaphrodites, with mating leaving both partners pregnant, over time their social ordering has led to sexual dimorphism, with the dominant member of each pack assuming a female role and the other pack members acting as males. When the female pack leader dies (perhaps killed by a male challenger), chimeric biology enables a surviving pack member-usually the most powerful male-to change from male to female. The reverse is also true when a deposed female chimera survives its loss of position or when a female chimera alone or in a mated pair joins an existing pride.
While fearsome of aspect, chimeras are largely lazy, petty, and cruel creatures. Their limited faculties of speech are primarily dedicated to crude threats and boasts about their ferocity, but in truth they prefer to feed their appetites and their egos with the least amount of effort required. While capable of hunting, the dominant chimera in a pride is happier to have others do the hunting for her, taking the choicest spoils for herself. In a similar fashion, a lone chimera or mated pair prefers to frighten others into paying tribute whenever possible, saving the trouble of seeking and catching its own prey. While chimeras consider humans and their ilk delicious, they also savor the taste of fear itself, and delight in accepting helpless sacrifices to devour, bloodily feasting in full view of their cowed vassals, but always leaving one head vigilantly and eerily watching onlookers while the others eat.
Chimeras may cultivate humanoid allies when they think far enough ahead to do so, usually when local humanoids fear the twisted creature so much that they pay homage to it out of awe. Kobolds especially gravitate toward chimeras because of their shared draconic heritage. Powerful creatures that have no reason to fear the powers of the chimera sometimes keep the monsters as pets or mounts. However, chimeras are untrustworthy companions, prone to sulking if their egos are not continually stroked. Their stupidity, boastful dishonesty, and casual cruelty make them dangerous to their masters’ allies and property, as they are prone to thoughtless acts of impulsive destruction if not kept under a tight rein, and if they are too tightly controlled, they will try to turn on their masters whenever an opportunity for treachery presents itself.
As chimeras are often the crude leaders of lesser creatures, they make excellent capstone monsters for low-level adventures. Their versatility in combat makes encounters featuring them viable for a variety of parties of the right level, as their flight and ability to hover allow them to counter ranged attacks, and their breath weapon makes them a threat even at a distance. If threatened by multiple party members, a chimera can focus all its violence on a single target or spread its attacks against multiple foes, making melee fighters think twice before rushing in all at once.
Chimeras are often most effective when they are foreshadowed before being encountered. As chimeras’ traits are often exaggerated, it is fitting for villagers plagued by chimera attacks to make hyperbolic remarks about the monster that seem slightly askew or at least unlikely. Tribes or cults may offer a chimera tribute in exchange for its protection or simply to avert its wrath, leaving offerings and making sacrifices on crude altars. While a chimera encounter should not be so built up that the final reveal seems anticlimactic, the beast and its influence on the people around it should feel eerie and mysterious. It thus becomes a legendary monster that is heard of before it is ever seen, living somewhere apart from the creatures that venerate it or try to buy its loyalty. A chimera can be brought in at a strategic moment during a battle, making a dramatic entrance on the scene to aid the PCs’ foes just as the party feels it has won, and the beast’s cruelty and dim wit can be emphasized by having it injure its supposed allies or subjects with friendly fire.
Chimeras are simple creatures, usually content with a cave or similar location as a lair. They seek out lairs that suit their abilities, without narrow bottlenecks that would restrict their movement and with high enough ceilings to facilitate flight, especially favoring caves atop or in the middle of cliff faces and nests among rocky spires. Where possible, they set up rockfalls or even acquire nets or similar items to drop on creatures climbing to their lairs, using their breath to destroy ropes and other climbing gear as pesky adventurers make their ascent, making the approach toward the chimera as dangerous as the fight itself.
A chimera may keep a number of cowed servants at its lair to groom it and fawn over it (or for the monster to eat when the mood strikes), but any such unfortunates need to accommodate themselves to the chimera’s choice of lair, as it is unlikely to go out of its way to make them comfortable. Such servants often keep ranged weapons or polearms to attack creatures approaching their bestial master’s home, or they may be sent as raiders to capture tender humanoid victims and bring them to a sacrificial spot for the chimera to mutilate and devour.
At high levels, chimeras do not present much danger to PCs as solitary enemies, but when encountered in groups, they concentrate their breath weapon attacks on a single target, and thus can still constitute a significant threat. All chimeras in a pride need not have the same type of breath weapon, so PCs focusing their magical defenses to protect against fiery breath may be blindsided when the rest of the pride barrages them with acid, cold, and lightning. Chimeras are usually durable enough to survive at least 1 round of high-level attacks, and as long as they keep moving and spread out to avoid area and multi-target effects, they can swoop in and out of cover, returning to the assault as their breath weapon recharges. Chimeras also make dramatic and impressive mounts for high-level NPCs, able to contribute meaningfully while their riders do the heavy lifting in combat.
Chimeras often hoard shiny baubles, though they are not the obsessive collectors that their partly draconic nature might imply. To a chimera, appearance is more important than value, and the more ostentatious a trophy the better. They recognize the value of coins, though any coin is much the same to them as another, and the same is true with gems and jewelry. They are far less interested in appraising the true worth of an object than they are in how it looks, and are only too happy to adorn themselves with various trinkets if the items would make them look more frightening. Even though they cannot use most weapons or armor, they take great pleasure in commandeering such novelties, using them for simple bartering with more powerful creatures or for luring unsuspecting victims to their lair. Chimeras particularly enjoy items gilded or bejeweled with spectacular gems or enchanted with magic to enhance their appearance, especially those that shed light or produce dramatic music or sounds. Even if such items would ruin a chimera’s element of surprise in battle, the beasts are only too happy to forfeit stealth if only to temporarily frighten or alarm their foes.
Chimeras are arrogant and prideful creatures, and so their favorite trophies are ones that memorialize their triumphs in battle. While chimeras’ primary motivation in carrying off dead enemies is to feast on the corpses without being disturbed, their secondary purpose is almost always to collect and organize the belongings of their victims. Chimeras show unusual punctiliousness in arranging the spoils of won battles, and an individual will use these relics to decorate its lair or fashion them to itself in hopes of inspiring fear and loathing among those who see it or its home. Such possessions often lead to rivalries and sabotage within a chimera pride, as one chimera may steal the trophies of another only to destroy or hide them, or worse, claim the items as their own. Chimeras accusing others in the pride of stealing their things are generally regarded as sore losers by their kin, for true hunters never lose their prey. Their brutish and careless demeanors result in the foul beings breaking their toys more often than not, however, so chimeras are always searching for new trinkets and playthings.
Chimeras can easily be modified to resemble great cats other than lions, or horned beasts other than goats, especially if they’re placed in an environment consonant with their specific features. For instance, a mountain- or arctic-dwelling chimera with a white dragon head could also have the head of a mountain goat, bison, or musk ox and the head of a cougar or snow leopard, while one dwelling in a marshy jungle with a black dragon’s head could have the features of a tiger, jaguar, or black panther and of a shaggy black ram or goat . Such variants would most likely have bonuses on Stealth checks while in their local environs, as well as natural attacks befitting the size and shape of their bestial parts. Other variants of chimeras include ones with less or more heads, or heads located on different parts of the body.
An orthrus lacks wings and possesses a body that resembles a two-headed hound or wolf with a draconic head sprouting from its tail. Orthruses are CR 7 magical beasts, and possess the same stats as chimeras with the following exceptions:
An orthrus does not have a fly speed, and replaces the Hover feat with Power Attack and the Fly skill with Survival. An orthrus’s blunt paws make unsuitable weapons, but each of its bite attacks deals a number of points of damage equal to 2d6 plus 1-1/2 times the chimera’s Strength bonus, and one of the heads gains the trip special ability. It also gains the rend special attack (2 bites, 2d6+6), and the placement of its heads grants it all-around sight.
It’s said that when the first chimera prototypes were created, their kind was made up of what eventually became legendary chimeras (one such creature is detailed at the end of this section) and orthruses. The legendary chimeras were all female, and orthruses were exclusively male. When the two mated, they occasionally produced chimeras and orthruses; more often, however, their offspring resembled neither parent, and were instead wicked, single-headed abominations. While their maker was satisfied with the wretched progeny, the chimeras grew malcontent and angry that their children were so deformed, hideous, and unlike them. They turned on their mates and began to devour them and their children alike. Seeing this, their creator decided to make the chimeras less headstrong, more adaptable, and able to see to their own reproductive needs. Orthruses quickly found themselves no longer needed and thus even further hated by these new chimeras, and so most retreated to the farthest reaches of the world, where the cruel chimeras would not hunt them down. There some still lurk, licking their wounds and seeking the occasional lone chimera to force themselves upon and mate with, spawning more of their kind and waiting for the day they can rise against their oppressors.
In Greek mythology, the chimera was a unique fire-breathing beast that terrorized the kingdom of Lycia in Asia Minor. Described by Hesiod and Homer as a tripartite creature melded from goat, lion, and serpent, she was one of the many Greek monsters spawned by Echidna and Typhon. Depending on the specific source, legends state she was either the sister or mother of the Sphinx and the Nemean lion.
The chimera figures most prominently in the legend of Bellerophon, who was commanded to hunt the beast by King Iobates of Lycia. This hunt was intended as an impossible task that would kill the hero, but after he tamed the flying horse, Pegasus, Bellerophon was able to fly out of reach of the Chimera’s bite and breath, though he was still unable to wound the monster with his weapons. Feeling the monster’s inner heat, Bellerophon mounted a block of lead on the end of his spear (in some versions of the story covering it with fat to entice the monster to bite and swallow it), and then lodged the weapon in the Chimera’s gullet-the lead melted in her windpipe and suffocated her.