Crafted in secret by the cunning magic of the earth genies known as shaitans, lava children are born of the shifting, molten border between the elemental planes of fire and earth. They were created as the perfect spies and scouts for the shaitans in their tumultuous and often hostile dealings with the fire-born efreeti genies. Though the lava children proved able in their vocation, perfectly suited to surviving in the Plane of Fire and those volcanoes and other fiery regions on the mortal world where efreet most often lair, the fire genies quickly grew wise to the scheme, and were easily able to dispatch the relatively weak lava children when they became troublesome. Thus the children’s utility steadily lessened as the generations wore on, and over time the children’s masters lost interest in their obsolete creations. In the absence of leadership, the strange minions of earth and stone began slowly to understand their own nature and independence, venturing out of their molten lairs and into the greater world beyond, to consider what they might become.
Lava children are a created race, woven from spirits of fire and earth and bound into their strange, diminutive forms by ancient shaitan genies. Their bodies are stunted but strong, their oversized heads adorned with perpetual smiles that are far too wide and terrible to behold. In these strange bodies, gifted with a number of unusual powers—such as the ability to glide through the earth, or the bizarre ability to completely ignore metal in all its forms—the lava children were able to slip silently through the molten borderlands where efreet and shaitans met and quarreled, always watching and waiting, gathering information to help their crafters remain on the right side of any deal.
Yet with the efreet’s unraveling of this trick and the lava children’s subsequent abandonment by the shaitans, life changed for them. Without the constant direction of their masters, the long-suppressed elemental spirits bound within the lava children began a discordant chorus of their own, and it was not long before many masterless lava children began questioning their purpose, giving up the ingrained need to watch for and report new possibilities.
They became proselytes of independence, seeking out and gathering to themselves other lava children set loose from physical or spiritual bondage to their uncaring masters. Uncertain what role they have to play in the world, lava children today gather in isolationist, subterranean communities called cysts. Some are content to contemplate their purpose in quietness, but others are all too curious about what it might mean to take action rather than constantly watching, and these strive to become masters instead of servants.
Lava children are bizarre-looking creations of molded stone, which ancient magic causes to appear and function like raw-pink flesh, growing and changing as the lava child ages. Though their bodies are relatively unremarkable, shaped like wiry, muscular humans and weighing 400 to 500 pounds, their heads are the disturbing, oversized heads of babies, with mouths that open far wider than they have any right to. Despite its stony nature and delicate appearance, their flesh moves and feels more like dry leather, flexible despite its hardness.
Lava children are generously proportioned regardless of their apparent gender, with broad shoulders. They rarely wear clothes, but when they do, they wear loose drapes or skirts woven from the same flexible, stony fibers that form their fine, patchy hair. A lava child’s fingers end in long nails as keen-edged as obsidian shards.
For many, however, the true horror of a lava child rests in the feral, idiot grin of its infant face. Even when speaking in their sonorous, slightly mad voices, lava children’s mouths do not move, and their eyes only rarely bother to focus, instead taking in everything through peripheral vision. Only when eating, reproducing, or fighting do the jaws of a lava child stretch wide, opening the aperture to the furnace that burns within them. Lava children consume organic matter, normally incinerating what they take in completely and producing no waste but an occasional trickle of ash and smoke from their mouths or nostrils.
Most lava children appear to be male, but gender is an irrelevant concept to lava children and refers only to their appearance. Lava children treat one another as siblings, and their means of reproduction is in no way akin to that of typical humanoids. Originally, the monstrous magma dwellers were birthed through the elder sorceries of the shaitans from the essence of elementals of earth and fire sacrificed to the project. These unfortunate elementals were summoned and mesmerized into a euphoric trance, and in their bliss were utterly torn apart, their essences flowing through narrow channels to fill stone molds. There the essences were blended with molten stone and left to cool and cure, the strange rites at work drawing forth the vital sparks of the elementals to give form and life to the molten rock within. When the molds were cracked open, the shaitans beheld the truth of their creation: though they’d meant to craft a race that was strong, solid, and capable, the conflict between the earth and fire magic—the latter of which they had significantly less experience with—left their creations literally half-baked, with bizarre, infantile visages. Still, it quickly became clear that despite their hideous appearance, the lava children were still perfectly capable of fulfilling their roles, and the shaitans put them to work.
While their masters ruled their lives, lava children knew no other way that their kind might reproduce. As spies were destroyed in the line of duty, their numbers were replaced by bored shaitans using the same effective but inelegant processes. After their abandonment (or liberation, depending on who’s telling the story), lava children found themselves unable to recreate those ancient rites, facing a future of dwindling into extinction—which, indeed, is what their creators had assumed would happen. The lava children grew increasingly distraught, calling upon spirits of earth and fire to lend their wisdom to solving the problem. At last, in a rage at the line’s imminent extinction, a particularly powerful lava child chieftain attacked one of the unhelpful elementals, devouring it whole—and in doing so discovered the solution to all their troubles.
For the lava children found that they had not merely been created in those earthen molds; in the process of growing and forming within the shaitans’ crèches, those crèches had become a part of them, and their very bodies could serve as incubators, warmed by the perpetual flames of their bellies. A mature lava child had but to distend its smiling maw and slowly engulf a small elemental, mephit, magmin, or similar earth- or fire-based creature as a serpent would an egg in order to begin gestating a new lava child.
After 2 months of carrying a trapped elemental within its distended belly, a “parent” lava child regurgitates its offspring—a smaller, near-duplicate of itself. While the shaitans made many designs for the lava children, each lava child can only beget offspring after its own likeness, with slight variations based on the elemental creature consumed to provide its genesis. A new lava child must consume massive amounts of organic material, converting it into a type of compacted ash that forms the body mass beneath its strange skin, and growing to maturity in 6 years.
Lava children have a lifespan similar to a human’s, but as they age, their ashen internal substance starts to break down and be consumed by their internal fires. Minerals leach away, leaving them to appear pale and washed out in comparison to other lava children, and their skin hangs loose as their bodies shrink once more to a childlike size. Few lava children meet their final end from old age, however, as those reaching this advanced stage are often taken by the other lava children and ritually consumed—sometimes willingly and sometimes not—in order to be reborn as a new lava child, in a sort of symbolic reincarnation which nevertheless destroys the consumed lava child’s personality and memories.
Perhaps the strangest part of a lava child’s physiology is its unusual relationship with metal. For reasons unclear to even their shaitan creators, and perhaps having something to do with their unusual blending of earth and fire, lava children are incapable of interacting with metal. Instead, when lava children meet any sort of metal barrier, whether it’s a wall of iron or the steel blade of a sword, they pass through it as if it were merely an illusion, with no adverse effects. This bizarre ability—presented by some sages as evidence that lava children exist somehow outside the normal palette of elements, instead embodying some sort of new force or material—was a pleasant surprise to their creators, who immediately hit on the trait’s utility in allowing the lava children access to virtually any hardened redoubt. In addition, though individual lava children are no match for most seasoned adventurers, their ability to shrug off metal weapons and reach straight through steel shields and armor to tear flesh with their stony claws presents a terrifying challenge for which most humanoid warriors are decidedly ill prepared.
Habitat & Society
In some ways, lava children are children in fact as well as in name. In the wake of their long enslavement, they are prone to testing the limits of their freedom, acting on impulse or curiosity. Though they sometimes show moments of tender caring—often at inappropriate times, perhaps caressing the hair of a human they’ve just slain—lava children’s interactions with other creatures are filled with the naive, unthinking cruelty of a child desperate to express its own power over others. Lava children are susceptible to suggestion, but can be as stubborn as stones if they feel they’re being manipulated. They are imitative of others, but at times are almost bizarre in their disregard for convention. As an independent race and culture, they’ve only recently begun taking early steps into full maturity, with one of the few constants being that lava children are intensely private and do not react kindly to intruders visiting their territory.
Upon attaining their freedom, some lava children on the Material Plane retreated deep underground, where they dwell in the company of magmin, mephits, thoqqua, and similar near-elemental creatures. Most lava children, however, are loath to venture too far from the surface world and shallow caves where they have lived for so long, most often settling in geologically active regions. Though lava children cannot abide the touch of water, some cysts have sojourned through the stone of the seabed to congregate on small volcanic islands, isolated from other sentient life that might seek to manipulate or destroy them.
Lava children prefer community to solitude, especially when following a strong leader. Though they prefer to follow their own kind and are extremely mistrustful of those who would seek to lead them, they are ironically also easily cowed when obviously outmatched, and any leaders with an affinity for earth and fire (and sufficient power) can sway lava children into following them. Even for newly birthed lava children, the habit of servitude is deeply ingrained, and they are quick to give their obedience and respect, often using their earth glide and immunity to metal on behalf of their masters to sneak into places they’re not meant to be, such as strongholds or bank vaults. Lava children’s most common masters, however, are not outsiders to their race, but particularly strong and talented lava children, especially ones who have learned the secrets of magic.
Lava children are isolationist and often cruel, but not xenophobic. Humanoids living near a lava child cyst, such as a tribe of humans living at the base of an inhabited volcano, are sometimes aware of the lava children’s presence, and may offer tribute to assuage their wrath. Lava children relish this respect and dominion—even if their requests are often little more than symbolic, as they have no actual use for food, gold, or human virgins—and may embellish the fiery powers at their disposal, though those who anger or ignore them discover that their burning wrath is all too real.
Lava children are not deeply religious, as their slavery and inelegant creation process has left them somewhat suspicious of faith in a higher power. They know of the gods, but offer them little love beyond the occasional veneration of deities representing fire, earthquakes, and volcanoes (or leading other races in worship of such beings, while subtly altering the message to shine reflected glory upon the lava children). Lava children have introduced many rituals into cultures they have touched, including firewalking across hot coals, fire dances with blazing poi and torches, fire-breathing, and even sacrifice via volcano.
Lava children can be used as an alien culture uncovered in the course of PC exploration, or as menacing foes anywhere that volcanic activity is present. They are strange and dangerous creatures, curious about outsiders but prone to lapse into violence if bored or threatened. They interact in unusual ways with the volcanic tunnels or ruined cities in which they make their homes, as they are able to pass through metal bars and gates and traverse lava or other normally impassable barriers. Particularly tricky lava children might serve as living (and manipulative) religious idols that PCs may at first identify as golems of some sort.
Lava children can work well in concert with elemental creatures of a similar nature—especially if those others are enslaved or otherwise made deferential to the lava children—but are also uniquely suited to serving as minions of more powerful creatures, in particular those with ties to the elements of earth and fire. PCs may encounter members of a remote culture who call upon their “gods” to save them from the outsiders, or a valuable vault with a cyst of lava children left behind as guardians by some greater power.
Because of their metal immunity, lava children rarely keep metal items as treasure, save for occasional items offered as tribute. Lava children prize heat-resistant gemstones and carvings of stone, bone, and obsidian. While lava children typically fight with claws and teeth, rare champions utilize weapons and armor made of stone, bone, or dragonhide. Lava children may keep wands, rods, and the like, activating them with Use Magic Device, but potions and scrolls rarely survive in the conditions where lava children tend to live. However, alternate types of these items may be found, such as graven clay tablets or carved stone wheels used as scrolls, or potions sealed within natural bubbles inside lumps of metal ore (through which lava children can thrust their faces in order to lap up the magical concoction).
Because of their strange means of reproduction, lava children have branched out over the generations into a number of distinct variations. Below are some of the most common.
Chieftain (+1 CR): The most important of all lava children variants are the chieftains, those exceptional lava children who employ magic and rhetoric to inspire or browbeat their cystmates into obedience. Lava children chieftains are visually indistinguishable from ordinary lava children, but often bear several innate magical abilities passed down from parent to offspring in what the chieftains (sometimes referred to as priests, though not necessarily affiliated with a deity) claim are a physical manifestation of their right to lead. Divine right or otherwise, lava children chieftains are most likely to lead from the rear, using their lava channel ability to heal lava children and other elemental creatures commanded into their service, while simultaneously unleashing their spell-like abilities to defend their cysts or make war upon those who fail to show proper deference. For reasons not entirely understood, lava children chieftains are much longer-lived than ordinary lava children, with a lifespan similar to that of dwarves. Lava children chieftains have the advanced creature template and the following abilities:
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 5th; concentration +7):
At will—faerie fire
3/day— pyrotechnics (DC 15), stone shape
1/day— contact other plane (earth or fire elemental plane only), summon nature’s ally III (creatures with earth or fire subtype only)
Lava Channel (Su)
Three times per day, a lava child chieftain can channel volcanic energy to produce an explosion of molten rock, which functions like the channel positive energy ability of a cleric, except that it heals 3d6 points of damage for creatures with the earth or fire subtypes and does 3d6 points of fire damage to all others.
Lava Form (Su)
A lava child chieftain can shift between its solid body and one made of molten rock as a standard action. In lava form, the chieftain gains the elemental subtype, and its claw attacks add +1d6 fire damage. Any creature grappling or striking the lava form with natural weapons or natural attacks takes 1d6 points of fire damage. It can remain in this form for up to 5 minutes per day; this duration does not need to be consecutive, but it must be used in 1-minute increments.
Behemoth (+1 CR): This rare caste of warrior lava children was designed by its creators for espionage missions into especially dangerous regions. Though most behemoths succumbed to the high mortality rate that came with following their creators’ orders, a few managed to survive and breed. Lava children behemoths have the giant creature template and Improved Bull Rush as a bonus feat. They gain the following special attack.
Once per day as a standard action, a lava child behemoth can slam its fists to the ground to create an earth tremor. The behemoth makes a trip attempt against all adjacent creatures. This action does not provoke an attack of opportunity and the behemoth is not at risk of being knocked prone. Multiple behemoths can cooperate to affect a larger area; as long as each behemoth uses this ability at the same time and is adjacent to at least one other behemoth using this ability, the affected area increases by 5 feet in all directions.
Youths and Ancients (–1 CR): While mature lava children are Medium-sized, they are smaller at both the beginning and the end of life. Newborn lava children are already the size of halflings, and grow quickly to full size within 6 years. At the opposite end of life, the venerable lava children past 70 years of age lose their strength and mass as their bodies slowly wither. Both youths and ancients use the young creature simple template; the latter also apply venerable age modifiers.
Ecology Expanded 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.