This tremendous leviathan resembles a vast squid, yet the markings on its body are strangely unsettling to look upon.
Kraken CR 18
Speed 10 ft., swim 40 ft., jet 280 ft.
Melee 2 arms +26 (2d6+10/19–20 plus grab), 8 tentacles +24 (1d8+5 plus grab), bite +26 (2d8+10)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 20 ft. (60 ft. with arm, 40 ft. with tentacle)
Special Attacks constrict (tentacles, 1d8+10), ink cloud, rend ship
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th)
Str 30, Dex 10, Con 29, Int 21, Wis 20, Cha 21
Base Atk +20; CMB +34 (+38 grappling); CMD 44 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Bleeding Critical, Blind-Fight, Cleave, Combat Expertise, Critical Focus, Improved Critical (arm), Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Multiattack, Power Attack
Skills Intimidate +25, Knowledge (geography) +25, Knowledge (nature) +25, Perception +28, Stealth +11, Swim +41, Use Magic Device +25
Languages Aquan, Common
SQ tenacious grapple
A kraken can emit a cloud of black, venomous ink in an 80-foot spread once per minute as a free action while underwater. This cloud provides total concealment, which the kraken can use to escape a fight that is going badly. Creatures within the cloud are considered to be in darkness. In addition, the ink is toxic, functioning as contact poison against all creatures caught within it. The ink cloud persists for 1 minute before dispersing. The save DC against the poison effect is Constitution-based.
Kraken Ink: Ink cloud—contact; save Fort DC 29; frequency 1/round for 10 rounds; effect 1 Str damage plus nausea; cure 2 consecutive saves.
A kraken can jet backward as a full-round action, at a speed of 280 feet. It must move in a straight line, but does not provoke attacks of opportunity while jetting.
As a full-round action, a kraken can attempt to use four of its tentacles to grapple a ship of its size or smaller. It makes a CMB check opposed by the ship’s captain’s Profession (sailor) check, but the kraken gets a cumulative +4 bonus on the check for each size category smaller than Gargantuan the ship is. If the kraken grapples the ship, it holds the ship motionless; it can attack targets anywhere on or within the ship with its tentacles, but can only attack foes on deck with its free arms and can’t attack foes at all with its beak. Each round it maintains its hold on the ship, it automatically inflicts bite damage on the ship’s hull.
A kraken does not gain the grappled condition if it grapples a foe with its arms or tentacles.
Environment any ocean
The legendary kraken is one of the greatest of sailors’ fears, for here is a creature the size of a whale, one that can strike from the unseen depths below, can command the winds and weather that a ship needs to move, and possesses the cruel intellect of the world’s most creative and spiteful criminals. Some believe krakens to be a punishment of the gods, while others hold them to be the true lords of the deep, with the air-breathing races naught but their cattle.
A kraken measures nearly 100 feet in length and weighs 4,000 pounds.
Few creatures cause such fear among mariners as the dreaded krakens-gargantuan squid-like beings that dwell in the deepest and darkest trenches of the ocean, emerging only to spread mayhem and horror among sailors and land-dwellers alike. While those who know little of the sea and the terrors it contains refer to krakens as mythical creatures, experienced mariners know such talk only amounts to the wishful musings of the unenlightened, and that krakens are far from mere legend.
Most land-dwelling folk know of krakens only from stories, where the creatures are usually allegorical representations of the primal forces of nature, symbolic of mortals’ follies and their futile attempts to defy the natural will of the ocean. These folk regard such tales as parables, lessons to be considered but still regarded as mostly fictional. Those who earn their living at sea know better. While actual sightings of krakens are rare, and those who encounter the monsters rarely live to tell their tales, krakens’ habits and appearance are well known among fisherfolk and nomadic seafarers alike. Traditions passed down through families of mariners tell which seas are regarded as most dangerous, when krakens are likely to be encountered, and what activities attract their attention. Shamans and priests of seafaring tribespeople know to invoke the aid of the gods and spirits before individuals venture into the wild and unforgiving ocean, asking their deities for help in warding off the evil krakens. Some barbaric peoples take a different approach entirely, throwing various sacrifices and offerings into the sea in order to placate those who dwell below, and particularly perverse clans have gone so far as to give themselves up to the worship of krakens, believing them to be agents of ancient gods, or perhaps even gods themselves.
Even the bravest captain quails in the face of a kraken attack, and most sailors sailing through known kraken territory carefully consider the fact that this voyage may be their last, and make peace with their gods before setting sail across the briny deep. Superstitious mariners deal with krakens by avoiding them as much as possible, and the cowardly consider even the slightest mention of the creatures to be bad luck. Woe to the unwary traveler who mentions krakens in conversation with an irrational captain while aboard her ship-at the very least he will be shunned, and at worst he will be thrown overboard in an attempt to ward off ill fortune or as a sacrifice to keep the lurking terrors away. However, there do exist tales of brave warriors fighting back against the treacherous krakens, summoning their courage and giving the beasts nothing until they are either driven off or slain outright. Such tales inspire bravery within sailors in times of peril, but if there’s one thing the hateful krakens actively punish, it’s resistance from those they considers their inferiors.
A kraken’s strength and cunning develop over the course of centuries, and the beings can reach up to 2,000 years in age before even being considered elderly. Because of their lengthy lifespans, krakens formulate their plans on a scale hardly fathomable by mere mortals, working on evil plots for decades before ever setting them into motion. The size of a kraken is not a particularly reliable way of determining its age, as most individuals reach their adult size after the first century of life and remain massive until death. Instead, the colorful markings on a kraken signify its age, with each streak along its mantle denoting a century that it has lived. Older krakens take pride in displaying these markings, and construct ornamental crowns that accentuate the sheer number of stripes on their bodies. While most krakens who dwell in temperate waters range in color from crimson to pink and have navy blue markings, this coloration is largely dependent upon which ocean the kraken in question resides in. Those who live in markedly warmer seas are known to have flesh of orange hues with green markings, while krakens in icy oceans typically possess a deep purple base and bright blue stripes.
A female kraken becomes fertile when she reaches sexual maturity at about 200 years of age. When she goes through estrus once every 10 years, she begins emitting mental emanations as a signal to potential mates, and her mantle changes color, pulsating slowly between light and dark. Male krakens possess a unique sense that can detect the presence of a fertile female from hundreds of miles away via these mental emanations; if they are detected, males who wish to reproduce leave their territories and congregate on the female. Should more than one male wish to breed with the female, the suitors engage in combat, an epic struggle that may last for weeks and span vast distances as the giants wreak havoc in the isolated depths of the ocean or near the populated shore. Though these battles are long and violent, a suitor who knows he has been beaten will usually surrender before the fight becomes fatal, humbly withdrawing to his territory to tend to his wounded ego and flesh.
After mating with the victorious suitor, a female kraken lays a clutch of more than 100 fertilized eggs, which she guards fervently until they hatch 6 months later. As soon as they emerge from their amniotic encasing, however, the tiny kraken larvae are left on their own, and only the strongest survive in the perilous oceanic world they are born into. Only one in 100 hatchlings survives the first year after hatching, and of those survivors only one in 10 actually lives to full adulthood. Infant krakens are largely indistinguishable from common squids; by 10 years of age, however, a kraken has grown to a considerable size and its supernatural powers have begun to emerge. A kraken’s intelligence at 50 years is equivalent to that of the average land-dwelling human, and by the time it reaches its first centennial, it has reached its full size and has the wisdom of the most learned sage.
Krakens typically feed on smaller sea animals during their juvenile stages, but upon reaching maturity they develop a peculiar taste for the flesh of magical game as well as for land-dwelling creatures that travel across the surface of their waters. While they despise aboleths and attack them on sight, krakens do not consume the flesh of these beings, viewing it as utterly repellent and worthy of providing sustenance to only the basest bottom feeders. Their desire for the flesh of humanoids and other land-dwellers is driven primarily out of rage and hatred rather than necessity, as krakens by nature develop an immense loathing for all other forms of life upon reaching adulthood, particularly the so-called “civilized races.” This malevolence stems at least in part from their brutal struggle to raise themselves and survive into adulthood, though some scholars speculate that the root cause behind their characteristic aggression may be buried deep in the kraken’s psyche, some piece of their collective history embedded in their being that drives them to despise every other living creature. Certainly, part of the issue seems to be the ability of lesser creatures to accomplish great works through cooperation-to the staunchly individualistic and power-hungry krakens, several weak creatures working together to match the deeds of a single greater individual is cheating the natural order of things, in which the strongest individual rules over all lesser creatures. As some of the smartest and strongest creatures on land or sea, krakens naturally place themselves at the top of this philosophical pyramid, and see the success and independence of pitiful humanoids as an insult and a challenge.
Whatever the root cause, the lust for power-and, lacking that, destruction of that which they cannot control-is a primary motivation for most krakens, who see themselves as the rightful inheritors of the oceans and regard any other beings as mere cattle.
Because of the general sparseness of their populations and the ruthless way in which they must fend for themselves as they develop, krakens are solitary and distrustful creatures who view themselves as more powerful than all other beings, especially foolish land-dwellers, whom krakens view as undeserving of the lands on which they reside. While krakens can sometimes work together toward mutual goals-a hypocrisy that few other creatures are brave enough to point out-they are largely a solitary race, being altogether too megalomaniacal and paranoid to remain in each other’s presence for long.
Though krakens are capable of extremely complex crafts-and indeed, often live near torrid hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, where they can use the heat to forge rare metals into the incredible magic torcs and crowns with which they adorn themselves-they generally find such pursuits to be beneath them, preferring instead to take what they desire from someone else. They almost never construct their own lairs, but instead move in and dominate existing settlements of weaker creatures, whether deep-sea sahuagin or coastal humanoids, setting their new minions to work in furtherance of the krakens’ grand schemes.
Though krakens are sometimes found in sunken and ancient undersea cities, strange fallen metropolises positioned in trenches or on the sides of oceanic ridges the size of terrestrial mountains, these are not kraken cities. Rather, krakens are often fascinated by the tools and artifacts of their ancient rivals, the aboleths, and thus eager to search through lost aboleth structures for artifacts and knowledge that may advance their personal power. That krakens seem to be at constant odds with the enigmatic aboleths is hardly surprising, as both races of oceanic beings regard themselves as the rulers of the world beneath the waves. While the massive krakens are certainly more powerful than aboleths, they are not nearly as fecund, and thus the two forces find themselves evenly matched rivals, a fact that constantly enrages both parties. Even to this day, should a hardy explorer brave the depths of particularly barren oceanic valleys, she might find the remains of these ancient wars between the two monstrous races, the skeletons of aboleths and krakens alike sitting untouched on the rocky seafloor or fossilized in its sediment.
As powerful as krakens are, there are some who rise above the others, achieving both great age and immense magical power. These are the elder krakens, and though they remain deep beneath the surface of the ocean, rarely bothering to conquer those petty races on the shore, their might is such that cultic land-dwellers sometimes worship the things as great earthbound deities, knowing that their own time is limited should the immense beings set eyes on the inhabitants of land.
Though their physical strength is incredible, most krakens avoid outright combat unless they feel their honor demands it. Instead, they are intelligent enough to realize that their long-running schemes and careful manipulation of those servitor races they conquer are the safest and most predictable roads to success, and any terrestrial foes are easily dispatched by the krakens’ magical ability to control wind and weather, their foes’ ships foundering without the krakens ever bothering to lift a tentacle.
A kraken is an ideal candidate for the thrilling conclusion of a high-level seafaring adventure or campaign. Few things provide as much challenge and excitement for the commanders of a sea vessel as the threat of a Gargantuan kraken, especially if the PCs have known about the beast for much of the campaign or have seen its mark during their voyages. Despite its disdain toward other creatures, a kraken often maintains an extensive network of minions, who either worship the being as a god or simply adhere to its commands out of fear, respect, or magical compulsion. Such influences extend to both the inhabitants of the ocean-including merfolk cultists, sahuagin drudges, and even sea serpent companions-and those who dwell on the surface. A corrupted seafaring captain may lure unsuspecting passengers through kraken-inhabited waters, offering sacrifices to the evil beast in the deluded hope of being granted safe passage in exchange, or the ruler of a coastal nation may foolishly seek the partnership or patronage of a kraken in order to destroy her enemy’s navy. Such individuals can serve as a party’s initial foes until evidence later reveals their true masters, building up to the final encounter later in the campaign.
Ancient and malignly wise creatures, krakens hatch schemes that can take decades or even centuries to unfold. Evidence of a kraken’s doings may take form in seemingly unrelated incidents-a kraken may sink a boat carrying an important artifact, with the loss only coming to light years later during a war between two island nations for control of merchant waters. Few may realize that the loss of the important artifact is what initially spurred the war, and that the destruction of one island’s military forces is all the kraken needs in order to garner absolute control of its inhabitants. While a plot need not be so subtle as this to incorporate a kraken into one’s campaign, laying out groundwork that illustrates a kraken’s cunning and extensive influence can provide fuel for numerous adventures and make the final encounter all the more thrilling.
Krakens are infamous for their isolation and the inaccessibility of their lairs, and can make for interesting encounters underwater as well as amid the crashing waves above. They typically dwell at the bottom of the ocean thousands of feet beneath the surface of the water in caves, rifts, or volcanic vents. Some krakens reside in the ruins of ancient aboleth cities, plundering the crumbling remains of their enemies’ vanished splendor. Krakens need not take great pains to keep their lairs secret, as few would think to visit the inhospitable realm at the sea floor, but those intruders who do manage to find their way to a kraken’s domain are promptly greeted with the being’s rage and hatred.
A kraken accumulates its treasure horde over the course of centuries, and such a haul usually includes items of great antiquity and power. Though they may have differing areas of interest, krakens tend to value magical items above all others, amassing mundane treasures such as piles of gold and jewels only for the purposes of acquiring components they need or bribing surface-dwellers when doing so is easier than dominating them outright. Items that contain knowledge-such as tomes of lore and scrolls rife with arcane might-are especially valuable to krakens, who take care to treat these perishable materials with special unguents in order to preserve them, often containing them in waterproof lockers for added insurance. What more magically minded krakens value more than anything else, however, are exotic raw materials that can be used to power their crafted items, magical ores and gems that can be shaped to fit into the crowns and armlets they attach to their gigantic, alien bodies. Though most often portrayed simply as over-sized squids, most krakens with the means to do so take care to adorn themselves in various pieces of mystical jewelry that enhance their powers.
Those krakens who dwell in the tumbled undersea ruins of aboleth cities sometimes stand watch over strange artifacts that were built in the early days when their enemies were at the height of their power. Most of these vast and incomprehensible devices lie dormant, and thus krakens who happen across such finds seek to restore the engines to their workable state, that they might turn the strange magics to their own ends. Those who successfully face down a kraken and gain possession of one of these artifacts may find their prize a two-edged sword, for though the contraptions are full of valuable materials, they can also have strange effects on those who do not understand them.
While tales of massive octopuses and squids have been told for countless years, the mythos of the kraken has a particular flavor about it that implies not only monstrousness in size, but also a sinister nature revealed in violence against sailors and deep-sea mariners. Numerous tales over the centuries claim that not only has the kraken crashed into formidable ships with devastating results, but it devours the vessels’ inhabitants as well. Norse sailors of the twelfth century related heroic sagas that included the terrible kraken, said to be a monster that could drag entire ships beneath the waves to their doom, and such legends permeated the surrounding culture for hundreds of years to come, with authorities ranging from naturalists to religious leaders all declaring its existence.
While many beasts of myth are based purely on ancient folklore and have little standing in the world we live in today, the kraken has proven a remarkable exception in the past couple centuries, as discoveries of mammoth squids washing ashore have lent an amount of credibility to the kraken legend rarely seen elsewhere in mythology. Only in the past decade has photographic evidence of these elusive creatures finally been obtained-first filmed by Japanese scientists in 2004, the giant squid (and its even larger cousin, the colossal squid) may well be the inspiration for the legend of the kraken.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Mythical Monsters Revisited © 2012, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Jesse Benner, Jonathan H. Keith, Michael Kenway, Jason Nelson, Anthony Pryor, and Greg A. Vaughan.