This creature looks like a humanoid crow with oily black feathers, glittering eyes, and a sharp beak. In the place of wings, it instead has two muscular arms, ending in sharp claws as hard as rocks.
Speed 30 ft., climb 30 ft.
Str 13, Dex 12, Con 15, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 8
A dire corby can perform a special kind of pounce attack by jumping into combat. When a dire corby charges, it can make a DC 20 Acrobatics check to jump into the air and land next to its enemies. If it succeeds at this Acrobatics check, it can make a full attack (two claw attacks, plus a rend attack if both claws hit) against foes in reach. If it fails, it can still make its one attack as normal for a charge.
Environment any underground
Organization gang (2-5), hunting flock (1-3 dread corbies and 5-10 dire corbies), or rookery (1-10 dread corbies and 10-50 dire corbies plus 1 barbarian or fighter of 3rd-5th level per 10 adults)
Dire corbies are subterranean predators that resemble humanoid crows with muscular arms and fearsome claws. Though they make their cliff-side homes on the walls of underground chasms, where they climb and leap with death-defying agility, they are most frequently encountered in the tunnels where they wait to ambush prey, leaping down from the ceiling to rend and tear.
Dire corbies are intelligent, but have little use for society outside of the rough, squabbling pecking order of their rookeries, where their social order is little better than that of the mundane birds they resemble. Along with the near-suicidal savagery with which they launch themselves into combat, dire corbies are known for their terrifying screeches, songs of doom capable of unsettling even experienced explorers.
In addition to being savage predators, dire corbies are also notorious cannibals when it comes to their young, and a mother dire corby must carefully defend her eggs lest a flock of males from the same rookery descend on her nest and devour the unborn children in a flurry of yolk and blood. This ultimately counterproductive tendency only further supports the impression most races have of dire corbies as dangerously unbalanced beings, and may explain why the creatures remain relatively rare.
A typical dire corby stands 5 feet tall and weighs between 125 and 150 pounds.
Dire corbies are subterranean predators who resemble humanoid crows with muscular arms and fearsome talons. Though they make their cliff-side homes on the walls of underground chasms, where they climb and leap with death-defying agility, they are most frequently encountered in the tunnels where they wait to ambush prey, leaping down from the ceiling to rend and tear.
Dire corbies are intelligent, but have little use for society outside of the rough, squabbling pecking order of the rookery, whose social order is little better than that of the mundane birds the corbies resemble. Along with the insane, near-suicidal savagery with which the corbies launch themselves into combat, the flightless bird-men are best known for their terrifying screeches, the often prophetic songs of doom and destruction capable of unsettling even the most robust and competent explorer.
A typical dire corby stands 5 feet tall and weighs between 125 and 150 pounds, with little difference between males and females save that the latter tend to be slightly smaller (though no less deadly). In addition to being savage predators, enjoying the mad rush of taking on intelligent prey even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, dire corbies are also notorious cannibals when it comes to their young, and a mother dire corby must carefully defend her eggs lest a flock of male corbies from the same rookery descend on her nest and devour the unborn children in a flurry of yolk and blood. This ultimately counterproductive tendency only further supports the impression most races have of dire corbies as dangerously unbalanced beings, and may explain why the creatures remain relatively rare.
Dire corbies are a race of bipedal birdmen who inhabit deep tunnels and caverns. While resembling oversized, humanoid crows, dire corbies are wingless, and instead possess powerful arms and grasping hands tipped with razor-sharp claws. Though flightless, dire corbies are exceptional climbers, able to scale sheer cliffs with surprising agility, and can leap great distances, propelled by their powerful, taloned legs. They often cling to walls or ceilings above well-traveled tunnels, leaping into the midst of unsuspecting travelers to wreak havoc and destruction.
Dire corbies are utterly without fear, even of death, throwing themselves blindly into the dark across chasms of unimaginable depth or gleefully engaging enemies who far outmatch and outnumber them. Once battle is joined, dire corbies fight with maniacal tenacity, continuing to rend their foes with their talons long after they themselves should have fallen from their wounds.
Although intelligent, dire corbies have little use for communication or commerce with other races. Xenophobic in the extreme, dire corbies are hostile to almost all other living creatures, viewing them as competitors or enemies. If a creature is small enough or weak enough, it is prey, and if it is too big or too powerful to hunt and eat, it is an enemy to be avoided or fought until one side is utterly defeated. Disturbingly, dire corbies don’t seem to care whether they’re the ones who perish. No one knows why dire corbies act this way—perhaps untold years in the cruel caves and tunnels have forced them to compete in this way for food and living space, or perhaps the same curse they believe took their wings so long ago also took their sanity, afflicting them with some sort of racial madness. Whatever the cause, few creatures, if any, have ever befriended a dire corby, and the guanocovered bones of those who have tried litter the cavern floors beneath corby rookeries. This intolerant disposition has won the corbies a reputation as dark as their feathers, and most Darklanders consider dire corbies fierce and tenacious pests to be eradicated wherever possible.
The exact origin of dire corbies is unknown, but most scholars believe them to be a degenerate offshoot of some ancient, winged progenitor race. It is believed that dire corbies ventured into the subterranean world for some forgotten reason, and in the tight confines of underground tunnels subsequently lost their ability to fly and devolved into the savage race they are today. Obvious comparisons can be made between dire corbies and the tengu race, but beyond similarities in appearance, the two species share no common language, culture, or even abilities. Some scholars have postulated that dire corbies might be related to harpies, sirens, or kuchrima lamias, while others claim they were created by the drow. Another theory holds that dire corbies are the cursed spawn of Demon Lord of Winged Creatures and the Sky, banished to the Darklands and stripped of their wings for turning their backs on their demonic patron.
Whatever their origin, dire corbies are roughly humansized, averaging about 5 feet tall and weighing between 125 and 150 pounds. With rare exceptions, dire corbies have black feathers, black beaks, and black hands and feet. Dire corbies reach maturity in only 2 years, and can live for up to 25, though few reach such an advanced age.
Though they possess intellects and hands capable of using tools or weapons, dire corbies usually forgo the use of such devices. They favor their claws in combat, relishing the feel of their talons ripping through flesh and the hot spurt of fresh blood on their feathers. If absolutely necessary, a dire corby will craft a crude tool for a specific purpose, but invariably discards it once it has served that purpose. Dire corbies possess no industry beyond the crafting of crude jewelry or fetishes out of feathers, bone, and skin.
Dire corbies are omnivorous, but prefer a diet of fresh meat. They are not picky, however, and are perfectly happy to feed on carrion if it is available. Dire corbies normally subsist on rodents, bats, cave fishers, and other giant vermin, but even intelligent races, such as svirfneblin, duergar, or other humanoids, are viewed as prey if they venture into a flock’s hunting grounds. Corbies supplement their diet with subterranean fungus, particularly in lean times when living prey is scarce.
There is little physical difference between male and female dire corbies—females are slightly smaller, and have smaller feet and a shorter beak, but are every bit as strong, fierce, and insanely xenophobic as males. Female plumage is identical to that of males. The only major difference between the dire corby sexes is demonstrated once a year, during the breeding and nesting season. Males fight over breeding rights with the choicest females, and while such combats are usually ritualistic in nature, fights to the death are not unknown. Females lay clutches of three to six eggs, which incubate for about 3 weeks before hatching. Dire corby chicks are cared for solely by their mothers; fathers take no part in raising their offspring. As soon as chicks are able to walk and climb, usually after about a month, the fledglings are unceremoniously driven from the nest to fend for themselves.
While not normally cannibalistic toward other adults, dire corbies are disturbingly fond of eating their own eggs. Males in particular often raid nests to steal fresh eggs, sometimes forming gangs to team up on a lone nesting female. While most of the gang distracts the female, one or two males sneak into the nest and make off with her eggs. Once the eggs are in hand, the males squabble with each other, often resulting in injury and broken eggs. This tendency to devour their own unborn young may be one reason dire corbies are not more prevalent in the underground caverns.
Dire corbies roost in huge rookeries of up to 60 adults in large, open caverns. Corbies live in individual hollows dug in the cavern walls, containing nests of dried fungus and bones lined with feathers. These nests are not personal—a dire corby wishing to rest or eat in private simply finds an unoccupied nest and uses it for as long as needed, vacating that particular nest when it is done. The only exception to this is during nesting season, when a female corby claims a particular nest as her own, defending it against any other corbies, especially males, until her eggs hatch.
The walls and floors of dire corby rookeries are streaked with thick deposits of eye-wateringly pungent guano, and the air is filled with the raucous cries and screeches of the corby flock. Some alchemists and wizards are known to pay good coin for dire corby guano for use in alchemical extracts and other concoctions, but gathering such components is a dangerous (and stomach-turning) proposition.
Dire corbies have little social organization. They roost together for mutual protection, but seldom have leaders who preside over an entire flock. Large flocks divide into smaller hunting flocks of up to 10 individuals for easier hunting, but these are temporary gatherings. Dire corbies are smart enough to realize the value of cooperative hunting, but once prey has been felled, the corbies in a hunting flock fight among one another over the choicest bits.
These hunting flocks are usually led by the strongest members of a flock, who often possess class levels, particularly in barbarian or fighter. Barbarians are most common, as a dire corby’s natural disposition lends itself well to a barbarian’s rage. Such powerful corbies naturally assume what leadership positions a flock possesses, usually by bullying weaker members as the urge takes them. This “leadership” rarely manifests itself, however, beyond claiming the best portions of a kill or the most desired breeding partners.
The exception to this organization (or lack thereof) are those flocks containing dread corbies, a larger and stronger variety of the normal dire corby. By virtue of their strength, dread corbies often rise to positions of power within a flock. They choose the best nests and most desirable mates, and claim the choicest kills and treasure for themselves. They may even organize war parties against enemies of the flock. Because of the fractious nature of dire corby society, however, this leadership is of a very personal nature, and regular corbies soon resort to their usual squabbling when out of sight (or reach) of their “leader.” As dread corbies are barely more intelligent than their lesser fellows, few dread corbies ever manage to truly unify a flock. Most give up trying before too long, and simply use their greater abilities to gain better spoils for themselves.
Occasionally, other creatures may take command of a dire corby flock or rookery and impose some sort of order on the otherwise chaotic birdmen. Most of these non-corby leaders are at least bird-like in some respect, which helps them overcome the corbies’ ingrained xenophobia, and rule by force over their corby subjects. Harpies, cloakers, and even some demons, particularly vrocks, have all been noted as leaders of dire corby flocks.
Dire corbies have no organized religion, but individual rookeries sometimes venerate a particular deity. These rookeries maintain rudimentary shrines to their patrons, and often express their faith by carving and worshiping elaborate scrimshaw totems made out of polished dire corby skulls, but even then, “worship” is mostly a matter of placating a deity with occasional offerings or sacrifices, rather than a practice involving any sort of regular, organized ceremonies.
Examples have been found of dire corbies worshiping bestial evil gods, but veneration of demon lords is much more common. Even though dire corbies have no wings,
Successful hunting flocks sometimes venerate Shax, Demon Lord of Murder, and dire corby rookeries near troglodyte settlements have even been known to worship the Demon Lord of Troglodytes and Caverns. In some cases, dire corby “gods” are nothing more than the scrimshaw skulls themselves, placed atop crude bodies of bone, skins, and feathers.
For some unknown reason, corby shrines are tended solely by female dire corbies. While many of these “priestesses” gain no spells, some few are adepts, or more rarely, actual clerics or oracles.
Occasionally, dire corby witches make pacts with demon lords or other otherworldly powers, usually taking bats as their familiars.
Dire corbies are best used as recurring opponents in a underground campaign. A party might first encounter a small hunting flock, but as they draw closer to the dire corby rookery, they encounter more and more of the creatures. If the characters flee or otherwise avoid a flock, they find that the dire corbies are unwilling to let fresh prey escape so easily and chase them relentlessly through unlit tunnels.
Even relatively powerful parties can be harassed repeatedly by dire corby hunting flocks making hit-and-run attacks, hoping to wear the PCs down in a war of attrition. And for every dire corby who falls, there are always more eager to replace them. GMs can also play up the fearless, almost suicidal nature of dire corbies. A well-placed fireball might decimate a hunting flock, only to make the survivors throw themselves at the PCs with greater ferocity. A party that thinks itself safe from the flightless corbies across a wide chasm might find that the creatures launch themselves across the gap regardless. And for every half-dozen who fall to their deaths, perhaps one or two actually make the jump, forcing the PCs to deal with crazed, slashing bird-men suddenly in their midst.
Dire corbies don’t normally collect treasure for their own use and, as they are uninterested in commerce, they see little use in collecting treasure to trade with others. The hunting grounds of a dire corby flock, or the floor beneath a rookery, are usually littered with the remains of past kills. Those adventurers with patience (and a firm grip on their gag reflexes) can frequently find items of value ignored by the corbies among the corpses of slain intelligent creatures.
Nevertheless, corbies are intelligent enough to recognize valuable objects, and sometimes deign to take choice items back to their lairs. They are especially attracted to shiny, glittering objects such as gems or jewelry, or anything that gives off light (such as an item with a light spell cast on it or a glowing magic sword). Dire corbies are particularly fond of rubies, and can spend hours staring into a ruby’s crimson depths, making strange cooing noises. A dire corby nest often contains several such shiny objects (though there is as much a chance of finding worthless colored glass as there is of discovering valuable gemstones). A particularly intelligent and powerful dread corby might even possess a masterwork or magical weapon, though it most likely carries the weapon only as a status symbol, relying on its own claws in combat.
Several varieties of dire corby are known to exist.
Some dire corbies are able to use their natural screeching call to much greater effect than their fellows. Known as doomsingers, these corbies possess higher Charisma scores (no penalty to Charisma, instead of the usual –2) and take levels in the bard class. Dire corby doomsingers gain a +2 racial bonus on Perform (sing) checks, while dread corby doomsingers gain a +2 racial bonus to the save DC of their screech of doom ability. Doomsinger bards may take the following alternate class ability.
As a standard action, a doomsinger may expend 1 round of his bardic performance to cast cause fear, lesser confusion, or hideous laughter, or 2 rounds of bardic performance to cast rage or scare, even if the bard does not know these spells. These are spell-like abilities that function with a caster level equal to the bard’s class level. This ability replaces the bardic knowledge ability.
Said to be the spawn of harpies and dire corbies, dread corbies are bigger, stronger, and faster than their dire corby kin. Equally fearless, dread corbies possess enough intelligence to sometimes use weapons, usually crude javelins. In addition, dread corbies possess a terrifying shriek, possibly inherited from their harpy mothers, that evokes paralyzing fear in those who hear it. Dread corbies usually occupy positions of leadership within dire corby hunting flocks or rookeries, either through the deference of their lesser kin or by bullying their way to the top. Dread corbies are 6 to 7 feet tall and weigh close to 200 pounds.
To create a dread corby, add the advanced creature simple template to a dire corby. A dread corby is immune to fear, and has a ranged javelin attack (attack +5 ranged, 1d6+3 damage) and the following special quality:
Once per day, a dread corby can loose a horrible shriek that terrifies its opponents. The dread corby can target one creature within 30 feet. This target must make a DC 12 Will save or be frozen in fear, cowering for 1d6 rounds. Any other creatures within 100 feet must make a DC 12 Will save or be frightened for 1d4 rounds. Those who make the save are shaken for 1 round. Dire corbies and dread corbies are immune to this effect. This is a sonic mind-affecting fear effect. The save DC is Charisma-based.
Occasionally, a dire corby is born with no color to its plumage. Stark white, with glittering red eyes, these albino corbies are known as ghost corbies. Despite being smaller and weaker than normal corbies, ghost corbies manage to hold their own in the flock by virtue of being significantly smarter than their kin, as well as through the unusual ability to turn invisible. When hunting, they lie silently and invisibly in wait, seeming to appear out of thin air to take their prey by surprise. Fortunately, ghost corbies are more sensitive to light than their brethren, and can be driven off with displays of bright light. Some dire corby flocks view ghost corbies as dead corbies returned to life, and treat them with respect and awe. Other flocks see them as abominations and kill them on sight. Ghost corbies are smaller than normal dire corbies, standing just under 5 feet tall and weighing about 120 pounds.
To create a ghost corby, add the advanced creature simple template to a dire corby. Ghost corbies have light sensitivity, sneak attack +2d6, a +4 racial bonus on Stealth checks, and invisibility as a spell-like ability 1/day (CL 2nd, concentration +1).
Dire corbies who feed solely on carrion have been known to succumb to ghoul fever and be reborn as undead ghoul corbies with a hunger for living flesh. Ghoul corbies appear as emaciated dire corbies with jagged beaks and dull, grayish feathers that are often missing in patches. They gain a bite attack that deals 1d6 points of damage, and a ghoul’s channel resistance, disease, and paralysis abilities (DC 12). Afflicted with a gnawing hunger, ghoul corbies often return to their home rookeries in search of fresh meat.
A single ghoul corby can wipe out an entire rookery, spawning in its place an undead rookery. But something in the xenophobic mind of dire corbies changes in undeath and prevents ghoul corbies from working together, such that an undead rookery usually destroys itself before the disease can spread. Nevertheless, rumors tell of “civilized” Darklands ghouls keeping hunting flocks of ghoul corbies as pets, much as human hunters might keep a pack of dogs. A ghoul corby is a CR 2 creature.
Wingless corbies are the norm, but reports occasionally surface of dire corbies with wings. Whether these specimens are naturally born throwbacks to that remote time when all corbies possessed the power of flight, the offspring of unholy unions with other winged creatures of the dark depths—such as cloakers, bats, or demons—or the product of magical experimentation (such as drow fleshwarping) is unknown. Winged corbies usually inhabit vast subterranean caverns that give them room to fly, but have been reported above ground as well, stealthily winging through nighttime skies. A winged corby has the same statistics as a normal dire corby, but its climb speed is replaced with a fly speed of 40 feet (average maneuverability), and it has the Fly skill (+5) instead of Acrobatics.
Additional Ecology Section 15: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Misfit Monsters Redeemed. Copyright 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Adam Daigle, Crystal Frasier, Colin McComb, Rob McCreary, Jason Nelson, and James L. Sutter.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3, © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors Jesse Benner, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, James Jacobs, Michael Kenway, Rob McCreary, Patrick Renie, Chris Sims, F. Wesley Schneider, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.