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Adherer

This pallid humanoid creature is wrapped in wispy strips of skin, with bits of detritus and a sour stink clinging to it.

Adherer CR 3

XP 800
LE Medium monstrous humanoid
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5

DEFENSE

AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+3 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 30 (4d10+8)
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +5
DR 5/—; SR 14

OFFENSE

Speed 30 ft., climb 10 ft.
Melee 2 slams +6 (1d6+2 plus grab)
Special Attacks grab (Large)

STATISTICS

Str 14, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 4, Wis 13, Cha 11
Base Atk +4; CMB +7 (+19 grapple); CMD 19
Feats Agile Maneuvers, Combat Reflexes
Skills Climb +10, Craft (cloth) +3, Craft (traps) +1, Perception +5, Stealth +11; Racial Modifiers +2 Craft (cloth), +4 Stealth
Languages Aklo
SQ adhesive

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Adhesive (Su)

A weapon that strikes an adherer becomes stuck fast to the creature’s adhesive flesh unless the wielder succeeds at a DC 14 Reflex save. A creature adjacent to the adherer can attempt to pry off a stuck weapon with a DC 17 Strength check, but doing so provokes an attack of opportunity from the adherer. The adherer’s adhesive flesh gives it a +8 racial bonus on grapple checks. It can attempt to grapple a foe as a free action whenever a creature successfully hits it with a natural attack or an unarmed strike. An adherer does not gain the grappled condition when it grapples a foe, nor does it provoke attacks of opportunity when it attempts to do so. Fire can temporarily burn away an adherer’s adhesive coating—whenever an adherer takes at least 10 points of fire damage, it loses its adhesive special quality for 1d4 rounds. Universal solvent, alchemical solvent, or a similar fluid removes an adherer’s adhesive quality for 1 hour if it fails a DC 15 Reflex save, or for 1d4 rounds if it makes the save. The adherer’s skin loses its adhesive quality 1 hour after the adherer dies. An adherer can release anything stuck to it as a free action. The save DCs are Constitution-based.

ECOLOGY

Environment any temperate or underground
Organization solitary, gang (2-5), or nest (6-12)
Treasure standard

Adherers look vaguely like embalmed and mummified corpses wrapped in dirty linen, but they are in fact otherworldly beings of an entirely different nature. Transformed by hideous processes on the Ethereal Plane, their bodies are riddled with tiny, adhesive strands that can stick to anything, allowing adherers to bind their enemies’ weapons and capture living creatures for their depraved rituals.

Though once human, adherers have forgotten all traces of humanity, and now hunt their former kindred with gleeful abandon. Adherers digest food unusually slowly, and as such can feed on a single creature (humans are their favorite meal) for days or even weeks, taking only one or two bites a day and forcing their living captives to endure a hellish, drawn-out death.

Adherers look vaguely like embalmed and mummified corpses wrapped in dirty linen, but are in fact something else entirely. Transformed by hideous processes on the Ethereal Plane, their bodies are riddled with tiny, adhesive strands that can stick to anything, allowing the adherers to bind their enemies’ weapons and capture living creatures for their depraved, blood-draining rituals. Though once human, adherers have forgotten all traces of humanity, and now hunt their former kindred with gleeful abandon.

Hunters and herders disappearing by night, children going missing during the day, whole frontier villages mysteriously depopulated—such things are a fact of life in a savage and unforgiving world. Yet not all who vanish in such a fashion are taken by the mundane criminals and villains of their time and place, and not all of those presumed dead by their friends and family are quite so fortunate.

Millennia ago, the phase spiders of the colony were a small but powerful group with a singular advantage over their brethren: a cunning leader blessed with powerful magical abilities. In her effort to advance the phase spiders’ eternal war effort against the xill, the mistress of the colony conceived a grand experiment: Rather than hunting for the food they required, her colony could farm it, keeping living captives as a constantly replenishing feast and giving themselves more time to focus on strategy. Unlucky humans, harvested surreptitiously from all corners of the globe, proved a perfect fit. As the phase spiders carried new victims into the Ethereal Plane, the mistress bound them into the ethereal webs of the colony, her peerless control over the ether changing the humans’ flesh wherever it touched and making them an inextricable part of her growing menagerie.

In this manner, hundreds of humans were literally woven into the spun ether-web substance of the colony’s holdings, with tiny filaments permeating every pore and orifice. Nourished by the same magic that bound them, the humans were bled with numbing monotony, feeding the cave spiders with their vital fluids. Disconnected from the world in the eternal half-light of the Ethereal Plane, with no companions but the alien whisperings of their spider hosts and the muffled screams and moans of their fellow survivors (or new captives brought to the colony to replace those whose bodies failed them), one by one the humans went mad. The phase spiders were without malice or cruelty, but few of their captives could cling long to rationality in the face of the incessant degradations and skittering ministrations of the eight-legged captors who tended them like livestock.

Through unnumbered years, the colony continued to grow, and the humans who endured soon found that they did not age and die as quickly as they once did. The dilated reality of the Ethereal Plane had infused their flesh, with spun ether and skin becoming one. It was only when a skirmish with the xill went poorly and brought the war itself that the phase spiders were forced to abandon their colony—and their chattel. Though many of the phase spiders escaped, their mistress was destroyed. Her final act was the creation of a pyrrhic cyclone of ether that obliterated both her and the opposing forces, but also tore the colony’s livestock loose and scattered them across the planes. Though the surviving phase spiders remembered their leader’s lofty idea, none possessed the power to manipulate the ether to bind and sustain humans, and over time all memory of the experiment was lost.

Yet the human captives scattered by the ether cyclone were not completely destroyed. Though many met their ends on inhospitable planes, roasted in the Plane of Fire or tortured in the pits of Hell, a few found themselves back on the Material Plane—and possessed of unnerving new abilities. Tendrils of wispy ether-stuff remained fused with their once smooth skin, forming a ragged mass of gauzy strips that hung loosely about them and proved strangely adherent to the dense reality of the Material Plane. These new creatures—for no longer could they reasonably be called humans—also slowly realized that their lifespans had lengthened, and the normal aging that should have taken years now stretched into decades.

Yet with these changes came something else: a hunger like nothing they had ever known, bred into them by the strange sustenance of the Weavemistress. A hunger, not of their own digestive systems, but rather an urge to feed some half-heard and only barely understood longing within the depths of their subconscious—a need to feel the fresh, warm blood of living creatures flowing over their grasping hands and waving tendrils. Whatever longing the prisoners may have had to return to their former lives quickly eroded in the face of that strange, all-consuming directive.

Stripped of their humanity, the adherers embraced their bizarre new forms. And they began to hunt.

Adherers are basically humanoid in size and build, though with pallid and hairless skin that hangs loosely on their gaunt bodies. During their captivity, the adherers’ physiology was subtly altered, allowing their flesh and skin to engorge and distend—the better to store fresh blood—and their skin retains baggy folds even though their flesh has withdrawn. Even newborn adherers share this trait, as the ethereal filaments permeate even their parents’ wombs, weaving themselves into the flesh of the adherers’ offspring and ready for use from the moment of birth.

The psychoactive ether-filaments that once bound them to the colony have also become inextricably woven into every nerve and organ, and it is principally the filaments’ influence—still driving them to acquire blood for their long-dead captors—that leads the crazed adherers to prey on other intelligent creatures. Once an instrument of bondage and subtle life-force manipulation, these ether-filaments now grow from the adherers, weaving themselves together into cloth-like bands. While adherers’ heads usually remain nearly bald, the rest of their bodies are draped and shrouded with these loose-hanging filament bands, creating their mummy-like appearance. These filaments are coated in a faintly damp, flammable residue that has a potent sour stench like curdling milk, a clue to those familiar with them that hidden adherers may be nearby.

Adherer filaments are bonded to the creatures’ neural structures, bringing excruciating pain to those adherers who have tried to cut them off. However, the strands also respond to their thoughts, and are incredibly adherent to matter from the Material Plane. It was not long after their escape that hungry adherers discovered the filaments made excellent tools for attaching camouflage to themselves or catching and binding elusive prey. As their filaments frayed and were shed, cannier adherers began to harvest this detritus, weaving it into tools to help them capture others and drain them of their blood. In the moldering recesses of their filament-wracked minds, they strive to carry on the legacy of the captors that once held them, though with a measure of cruelty and relish unprecedented by the phase spiders.

Adherers can survive as scavengers, but crave the sensation of trapping another creature and repeatedly draining its blood. Lacking the expertise or intellect of their captors, however, adherers tend to err on the side of taking too much, so their captives rarely last long. Though adherers occasionally drink the shed blood, more often they simply collect it out of habit, storing it in vats, jugs, and bottles. Those exploring adherer lairs are likely to find many such containers, cold and congealed.

Adherers are male or female, like humans, and procreate in the usual fashion, save that they join their filaments into a cocoon during copulation. They weave similar constructions out of dead fibers to keep their young safe while the parents hunt. While they rarely have the opportunity—as their lust for blood generally overcomes all others—adherers are also capable of interbreeding with humans. The resulting abominations appear human at birth, but quickly change as the ether filaments multiply and spring from their skins. Within less than a year, the children are transformed in both body and mind into infant adherers.

Adherers on the Material Plane have a lifespan approximately twice that of an ordinary human. Young and old must hunt as long as they are able, and those nearing the end of their lives often seek the most dangerous duties, craving death as an alternative to burdening the nest. Adherer dead are cocooned in their own filaments and woven into the walls of their community.

In combat, adherers naturally gravitate toward melee, where they use their adhesive qualities to crush their opponents to them, binding them in strands of sticky, extruded filaments and leaving them alive for later bloodletting whenever possible. The stickiness of their skin also makes them adept at disarming their foes, making melee weapons a risky option for those facing them. If confronted with enemies who can’t be subdued easily through simple grappling and adhesion, adherers are smart enough to slink into the shadows and set up elaborate ambushes.

Habitat & Society

The original adherers found their homeworld frighteningly unpredictable after their years of regimented imprisonment. In the moldering depths of their sanity, they dimly remembered their names and homes, and sought to find help from their friends and descendants. Those humans they met, however, saw only staggering, moaning abominations covered in bandages and refuse, stuttering in the inhuman cadences of an alien tongue. Fear and revulsion turned to violent reprisal, and the ether-gauze bands of the adherers proved just as flammable as the wraps of the mummies they resembled.

Fleeing back into dark and wild places, the adherers bitterly realized there was no place for them in human society. Yet this was not merely the result of prejudice on the part of their human brethren—for with every passing moment, the adherers found themselves more and more starved for the release of bloodletting, and needing to appease the obsession of the tendrils in their brains. With primitive malice, they recreated the only society they knew anymore, one of captivity, slavery, and slow consumption. Not blood-drinkers like their arachnid captors, adherers simply consume their bound prisoners one bite at a time, clubbing victims into unconsciousness if their screams grow too loud, but always awakening them on schedule for feeding and bloodletting.

Adherers often choose to live underground or in heavily vegetated terrain, where they can find or manufacture cover and concealing shrouds for their nests and ambushes. Their favored lairs, however, are ruined or abandoned buildings whose original inhabitants have been exterminated.

Adherers are cruel stalkers and ambushers, with a debased intellect scarcely above that of a particularly clever and ruthless animal. They exhibit a feral cunning in setting up ambushes, but their society is little more than a brutish pack ruled by the strongest, cleverest, or most vicious adherer in the nest. Dominant adherers control breeding in the nest and select the choicest captives for their feasting, sometimes casting out those who would challenge their authority. Those adherers unable to claim power and unwilling to serve beneath the dominant member sometimes voluntarily leave in order to start their own nests (a process that frequently involves restraining their bloodlust long enough to mate with captives and produce a new generation of nestmates). Adherers are constantly driven by their hunger, and even those able to converse with them in Aklo find them barely able to hold a conversation. The only creatures that seem to enjoy the company of adherers are spiders, who sometimes sense an affinity of sorts within them. Some sages speculate that the ectoplasmic secretions of an adherer’s filament-bonds act as a pheromone that attracts spiders to them. What is known is that spiders will not attack adherers unless magically controlled, and some adherers have still greater empathic abilities with arachnids.

Campaign Role

Adherers make excellent and atmospheric villains, representing an enemy that is both familiar in its nearhumanity and yet wholly alien. They can be placed into ordinary cave complexes, tombs, or other adventure locations, but are used to best effect when haunting ruined villages or cities draped with clinging webs and strands. Adherers are cleverer than animals—if only just—and able to set up ambushes, entangling and separating their foes to gang up on lone targets. They can be paired with spiders, ettercaps, and similar creatures, complementing one another’s modes of hunting.

At the same time, adherers are only barely sentient, just enough to convey a sense of tragic loss and hunger. Their moaning and chattering might at first appear to be akin to the guttural groaning of zombies, but it should be discernible to any paying attention that it is actual (if alien) speech, with a desperate edge of wanting and pain. The notion of being taken and exsanguinated by a nest of adherers (when their true nature is known) should be plenty to inspire dread, and any sage capable of recognizing the monsters should be able to inform the PCs that a captured NPC ally may face far worse if the adherer is attempting to start a new nest and seeking hosts for its corrupted seed…

Because of their resemblance to mummies, adherers can be used to turn PC expectations on their heads, giving birth to local rumors that lead PCs to stock up on resources to fight undead, only to find them ineffective against the true horrors they face. Still, adherers’ vulnerability to fire leaves them open to at least one common mode of attack against mummies, so players who have prepared to fight the undead should be surprised but not completely stymied in their efforts.

Variants

Adherer Shroud (+1 CR)

Some adherers lost their structural framework as their human tissue dissolved completely, leaving only a shapeless mass of ragged, fibrous swathes in which their frayed consciousness lingers. A shroud appears to be a pile of cobwebs and detritus when still, but when attacking unfurls into a wide, tattered sheet, often forming a crude face from the gaps and rents in the tissue.

Adherer shrouds share the normal abilities of their kind, but they have a fly speed of 20 (average maneuverability) and gain an additional +4 bonus on Stealth checks. In addition, they gain DR 10/slashing and the following special abilities:

Binding Shroud (Ex)

An adherer shroud wraps itself entirely around a target that it grapples. It gains a +4 racial bonus to CMD to maintain a grapple. When an adherer shroud makes a successful grapple check against a grappled target, the target is blinded for the duration of the grapple and begins to suffocate. If an adherer shroud is damaged while grappling, it takes only half normal damage from the attack, with any remaining damage taken instead by the grappled creature.

Tattered (Ex)

An adherer shroud can almost completely unravel itself, allowing it to pass through tiny gaps as if it were in gaseous form. Unraveling or reforming itself is a move action. Even in its normal form it never takes penalties for squeezing through narrow spaces.

Treasure

Adherers have a modest interest in treasure, valuing it primarily for its utility in luring victims into their lairs. In addition to obviously valuable items such as those bearing jewels or the hint of magic, which tend to make the best bait, adherer nests are often coated with a preponderance of weapons and armor—the leavings of those unfortunate warriors who’ve striven in vain to wipe out the adherer menace.

Adherers are skilled at weaving, and usually turn this skill to the manufacture of rope bridges, ladders, and other basic structures within their nests, sometimes including basic traps. Certain rare adherers, however, weave their shed ectoplasmic strands into a silken material, working it into simple garments or elaborate macramé decorated with sparkling crystals or coins to catch and reflect the light, reminding them of the glittering and ethereal vastness that was once their home. Once their adherer creator has died, rendering the silk harmless, these clinging garments can be extremely valuable to the right buyer, and silk from an adherer can sell for 10 times the price of the normal variety.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

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.