AC 28, touch 14, flat-footed 20 (+7 Dex, +1 dodge, +14 natural, –4 size)
Speed 30 ft., fly 90 ft. (good)
Constant—detect magic, detect poison, see invisibility
Str 27, Dex 25, Con 20, Int 23, Wis 22, Cha 22
A slain phoenix remains dead for only 1d4 rounds unless its body is completely destroyed by an effect such as disintegrate. Otherwise, a fully healed phoenix emerges from the remains 1d4 rounds after death, as if brought back to life via resurrection. The phoenix gains 1 permanent negative level when this occurs, although most use greater restoration to remove this negative level as soon as possible. A phoenix can self-resurrect only once per year. If a phoenix dies a second time before that year passes, its death is permanent. A phoenix that dies within the area of a desecrate spell cannot self-resurrect until the desecrate effect ends, at which point the phoenix immediately resurrects. A phoenix brought back to life by other means never gains negative levels as a result.
A phoenix can cause its feathers to burst into fire as a free action. As long as its feathers are burning, it inflicts an additional 1d6 points of fire damage with each natural attack, and any creature within reach (20 feet for most phoenixes) must make a DC 25 Reflex save each round to avoid taking 4d6 points of fire damage at the start of its turn. A creature that attacks the phoenix with natural or non-reach melee weapons takes 1d6 points of fire damage (no save) with each successful hit. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Female Unique Phoenix (CR 18)
Environment warm desert and hills
The phoenix is a legendary bird of fire that dwells in the most remote parts of the desert. As the birds are known to be great scholars, many seekers of rare lore search out particular phoenixes for advice. Yet it is the phoenix’s ability to rebirth itself from its own dead body for which the creature is best known.
The phoenix is a benevolent creature, aiding those who do good and actively harming those who do evil.
Few creatures come as close to epitomizing the ideals of good and righteousness as phoenixes. Resplendent birds with the ability to set their bodies ablaze at will and resurrect themselves after being slain, phoenixes compete with even the mightiest angels in their acts of virtue. While even the greatest celestial must occasionally turn its attention to its home plane, the phoenix remains a vigilant guardian of the Material Plane and a crusader against those who would seek to spread cruelty and malice. All the while, the benevolent creatures encourage the sowing of knowledge and wisdom, seeing education as a means to end such evils as famine and war.
In civilized lands, the phoenix is seen as a symbol of virtue, healing, strength, and eternal life. Its likeness is used to sell crafts, and its raw power is emulated in exotic, complex fighting styles. While phoenixes rarely dwell in or near humanoid settlements, the beings are known far and wide for their acts of benevolence and vast stores of wisdom. Some pilgrims trek hundreds of miles through harsh deserts and barren hills merely to solicit a phoenix’s rare and ancient knowledge, always given freely and with courtesy.
Although all phoenixes are avian in form, their specific features vary greatly from region to region. In arid plains and desert lands, where phoenixes are most common, such magical beasts resemble enormous hawks and eagles with sharp, hooked beaks and piercing ruby eyes. In the dense jungles and outlying savannas of the southern continents, the mythical firebirds have the smooth-crested heads and resplendent feathers of the region’s various tropical birds. In some arid lands that border close enough to vast, primeval forests, rare owl-like phoenixes with huge, violet eyes and crushing talons help elves shepherd their ancient woods. Coloration is generally more uniform among phoenixes, with the brightest plumage usually located on the crest, and feathers becoming darker in color across the bird’s shoulders and on the flight feathers. While red and yellow are the most common hues among phoenixes’ blazing feathers, white, green, and blue have been documented as well. Such uncommon colors are primarily found on the most powerful phoenixes, the hues directly correlated with the heat of the phoenix’s flames. A phoenix’s underbelly is lighter and ranges from white to yellow, though older individuals have been known to have ash-gray or jet-black stomachs.
Phoenixes grow to enormous sizes, and despite their massive wings, they are graceful, agile fliers. An adult phoenix stands 20 feet tall, has a 40-foot wingspan, and weighs about 5,000 pounds. Males and females are roughly the same size; males possess slightly brighter feathers that they display during courtship flights, and the song of the female phoenix is higher and often deemed more melodic than that of males. Indeed, while a phoenix’s song does not usually possess any mystical influence in and of itself, the cry is often as fascinating to listeners as any of its other powers. Likened to a songbird’s melody combined with the harshness of a raptor’s shriek, a phoenix’s cry is supposedly good luck for virtuous individuals who hear it and a bad omen for would-be evildoers.
Most phoenixes are birds of prey, and although they can subsist on large quantities of fruit or plants if necessary, many prefer the taste of meat and the thrill of the hunt. They typically feed on local wildlife such as grazing gazelles or antelopes, as well as various species of deer and aurochs. Phoenixes prefer their meat raw, but the hospitable creatures are happy to quickly roast a meal for guests with more discerning palates. Phoenixes that dwell in more populous regions are sometimes given gifts by grateful humanoids, but the firebirds would usually rather deliver such presents to those in need (much like the serpentine couatls, phoenixes’ weaker comrades in righteousness). When battling particularly ignoble creatures, phoenixes are not opposed to eating villains’ remains, fueling their battles even as they wage them. Phoenixes live for up to 500 years before being reborn as completely new individuals, and reproduce once every century after their first. Phoenixes mate for life, though they only come together for a brief mating period before parting once again. During this mating period, the female produces an egg the size of a small wine cask, and for the next 6 months both parents alternately incubate the egg. When the egg finally hatches, it reveals a young phoenix the size of an eagle, and within days the newly hatched phoenix possesses intelligence equal to that of a human. As impressive physiologically as the phoenix is, the bird’s legendary reputation truly stems from its association with magic and fire. At will, a phoenix can wreathe its body in a halo of searing fire whose flames scorch the flesh of any who dare near it. This incendiary shroud obscures all but the creature’s basic shape and the light of its eyes. The overwhelming sight of a phoenix aflame is so mesmerizing to allies and foes alike that the mere spectacle has been known to end battles before they even begin.
Even a phoenix’s healing magic is linked to the creature’s flame, for those who have had their wounds healed by the creature tell of waves of fire that burn away gashes and leave healed and unblemished skin, or of warm radiance that drives out the numbing cold of poison and disease. Yet the greatest by far of the phoenix’s legendary powers is its self-resurrection ability. Once per year, a slain phoenix can return to life within seconds of its death. Particularly skilled foes can prevent such an occurrence by quickly eradicating the remains, but many enemies have spend their last reserves battling a phoenix to the death, only to find the creature renewed instantly and ready to fight once more. Those who have seen a phoenix rise claim that the bird’s corpse initially becomes brittle and blackened, like the wrinkled form of a charred log. Moments later, crimson light begins to seep from the cracked remains before the rejuvenated phoenix bursts forth aflame, reducing the husk to ashes. If the magical firebird should be slain again before its legendary power has regenerated, however, it can only be raised via powerful magic from an outside source. Few sights are more disheartening than the true death of a noble phoenix.
Phoenixes form strong bonds with their mates, though because of their solitary natures they do not spend much time in each other’s company. A pair of phoenixes comes together to mate only at great intervals, and the parents of a young phoenix then care for their offspring for the first few years of its life. After this span of time, the firebirds leave each other, casting themselves far and wide in order to spread their benevolent influence and words of wisdom. Each century, however, the original couple will come back together once more to rear another fledgling, rekindle their affections, and share their knowledge.
Young phoenixes rarely ever see their parents again, and must instead seek the company of mates if they wish to interact with their own kind once more. Phoenixes do not often seek allies among one another besides their mates, only gathering as a group in times when a dire evil has overcome the land and requires the might of several phoenixes to combat it. Phoenixes’ innately solitary nature makes them difficult allies to acquire, as most such creatures dwell in secluded areas in desolate hilly regions or valleys. While they do isolate themselves in this manner, phoenixes do not mind the company of visiting humanoids or other creatures, especially if such a friendship could be beneficial to both parties. Phoenixes thrive on scholarly knowledge, and revel in gifts of tomes and lore. While phoenixes appreciate presents of gold and nonmagical luxuries from travelers, they tend to give these gifts away to deserving peasants, spreading wealth rather than hoarding it. Just as many scholars seek out phoenixes to acquire greater understanding from such wise beings, phoenixes likewise glean whatever knowledge they can from these visitors. They have been known to visit the greater libraries of the world in order to absorb the knowledge of their rarest tomes, and it is said that their lairs often contain many rare scrolls and books, carefully protected against the obvious risk of fire. A phoenix is often more than happy to give such rare documents to gracious and good-intentioned mortals, though it will occasionally make a copy of the text to keep if the information it contains is particularly important.
Given their long lifespans and appreciation for knowledge, it is no wonder phoenixes get along so well with metallic dragons. Good-intentioned dragons acknowledge phoenixes’ power and impressive intellects, and when the two species exist in close proximity, they sometimes forge lifelong friendships, sharing their resources and words of wisdom and keeping each other updated on regional news. While outsiders such as archons, angels, and agathions possess some of the same ideals as phoenixes, the massive firebirds rarely have many dealings with extraplanar beings save in passing, as such immortals’ worldviews are often too distant and vast in scope for the more grounded, task-oriented phoenixes.
Because of their high CR and good alignment, phoenixes are rarely opponents in typical campaigns, but can act as powerful distant helpers and mysterious benefactors for PCs in need. Phoenixes are solitary creatures, and though they seek to do acts of good in the world, they often opt for a more ancillary role, recruiting virtuous adventurers to accomplish important tasks when their attention is required elsewhere. When a phoenix desires an audience with those it deems worthy of aiding it, it seeks such beings out, either directly or via a trusted proxy. In cases when a phoenix entrusts low- and mid-level PCs with important tasks, the firebird can act as a mentor and informer, providing them with information or clues they might need in order to complete their objectives.
In other instances, adventurers might actively seek the advice of a phoenix in order to solve a mystery of their own. The search for and journey to a phoenix’s lair can make for an exciting and eventful adventure, as the legendary birds hardly make themselves readily accessible, often requiring visitors seeking them to cross challenging terrain such as vast deserts, sheer rock faces, and complex mountain passes. Even when a party discovers the den of a phoenix, the great beast may require some show of honor or strength before providing its aid, perhaps constructing an elaborate trial for the PCs in order to prove their mettle-inevitably one that involves spreading goodwill or conquering evil.
In high-level campaigns, a phoenix can more readily act as an ally, as a source of obscure knowledge, or as a resource for rare items to be bought or bargained for. Additionally, a phoenix’s willingness to battle evil at all costs often puts the creature in great danger, and good-aligned PCs might need to rescue a phoenix from powerful fiends or an evil dragon if the creature should find itself outmatched. Since phoenixes often possess important knowledge, such quests take on extra urgency if the captive phoenix’s incredible secrets are at risk of being stolen as well.
In an evil campaign, few creatures make as challenging a final adversary as a phoenix. Confrontation with the firebird could be the consequence of the PCs’ escalating nefarious deeds, and can set up the phoenix as a recurring antagonist. All phoenixes are uniquely fit for this role since they can literally come back from the dead again and again, especially in a longer campaign arc. Additionally, evil characters could effectively have to fight the phoenix twice in one encounter to truly defeat it, although PCs who caused a phoenix’s true death would likely find their victory bought at great cost; the enmity they would earn among other powerful servants of good could easily fuel several subsequent adventures.
Phoenixes regard knowledge of any kind as the greatest treasure anyone can possess. While their lairs often contain modest stockpiles of coins and precious gems gifted by grateful visitors, the majority of a phoenix’s treasure takes the form of scrolls, books, tablets, and other repositories of information. Many of the most costly mundane items in a phoenix’s hoard are rare manuscripts of forgotten lore. Phoenixes keep such fragile items warded by magic or locked safely away in large chests of stone so that they are not burned in combat if the creature’s home is attacked. When possible, phoenixes stock their lairs with powerful magical books such as manuals of bodily health and tomes of understanding, holding such items for times of dire need or when a particularly worthy adventurer makes her presence known.
In addition to their libraries and stores of knowledge, phoenixes have also been known to collect powerful evil artifacts, items that the giant birds have confiscated from villains and vile beasts alike. A phoenix retains such treacherous works in its private lair so as to keep the things out of the wrong hands, while often optimistically hoping for some creature to prove that such an item can in fact be put to good use. While a phoenix would never dream of using such foul items for its own purposes, upon occasion a cursed relic takes hold of a well-meaning phoenix’s mind; such mesmerized beasts can prove to be terrible blights on nearby settlements. A phoenix makes sure to destroy the relic at fault if ever released from its hold-such enchanted individuals are exceedingly thankful to their saviors, and often allow the heroes in question to claim any item from their lair of treasures as a reward.
The phoenix appears in the mythology of the Mediterranean world as early as the fifth century bce. Although elements differ among historical records of the time, most myths describe the phoenix as a firebird with resplendent colors and a noble bearing. Although chronicled by both Greek and Roman scholars, the phoenix was a creature in Egyptian, Persian, and Indian myths as well, capable of long, graceful flights and perpetuating life through self-immolation. In some legends, this immolation was a means of reproduction for the phoenix, rather than resurrection-the phoenix’s immolation created an egg composed of frankincense or similar precious spices, from which a new phoenix would emerge. The Egyptian phoenix became popular in early Catholic art, literature, and theology, where the firebird’s resurrection and eternal life was symbolic of Christ. In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures, the phoenix is a mythological being known by many different names and characteristics, although it is always a symbol of eternal life. Regardless of specifics, all cultures that celebrate the phoenix depict it as a benevolent being whose presence signifies good fortune.
While phoenixes almost always start out benevolent, they are not infallible. Whether through demonic taint, magical influence, or some other corruption, a phoenix can become a creature of destruction. These cruel individuals retain their strong appetites for knowledge, but hoard information instead of spreading it, and often assault universities and libraries in their pursuit of power and wisdom-not just to gain new information for themselves, but to set fire to those texts they’ve studied in order to prevent others from learning their secrets.
Evil phoenixes typically have additional Hit Dice, and forfeit their healing spell-like abilities for spell-like abilities of equal level that deal damage or inflict detrimental effects upon creatures. Their regeneration and damage reduction effects are bypassed by good instead of evil, and they typically deal more energy damage with their natural attacks.
In addition, all evil phoenixes gain the following special quality:
In addition to the normal effects of a phoenix’s shroud of flame, an evil phoenix’s fire corrupts those it touches. Whenever a creature begins its turn within the area affected by the shroud of flame, it must succeed at a Will save (DC 25 for most evil phoenixes) or gain 1d4 temporary negative levels as per the enervation spell. Whether or not the save is successful, an affected creature is immune to this effect for 24 hours. The save DC is Charisma-based.