Friday, February 10, 2017

Sentient Nebula

This post, inspired by the play The Tempest, tales of the mirage phenomenon known as the Fata Morgana, and Arthurian legend, presents a creature for use in space fantasy campaigns.


(Artwork courtesy of

Sentient Nebula
This cloud of gas and interstellar dust might seem unremarkable, except for the fact that it moves of its own accord.

CR 16
XP 76,800
N Huge outsider (air, elemental, native) Wizard 10
Init +17; Senses Perception +21; darkvision 60 ft.
AC 30, touch 22, flat-footed 16 (+13 Dex, +1 Dodge, +8 natural, -2 size)
hp 152 (16d10+64)
Fort +17, Ref +26, Will +16
Resist Air mastery; DR 10/--; elemental traits
Spd fly 100 ft. (perfect)
Melee 2 slams +32 (2d8+8)
Special Attacks Whirlwind (DC 27)
Str 26, Dex 37, Con 18, Int 16, Wis 13, Cha 13
Base Atk +21; CMB +32; CMD 56
Feats Blind-Fight, Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Eschew Materials, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Mobility, Power Attack, Spell Focus (illusion), Spell Mastery x6 (affected spells are marked with an * below), Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +32, Escape Artist +32, Fly +34, Knowledge (arcane) +23, Knowledge (local) +23, Perception +21, Spellcraft +23, Stealth +24
Languages None?
SQ Spells, cantrips, arcane bond (familiar), arcane school (illusion)
Combat Gear None
Spells per Day: 4/4/4/3/3/2
Spells Known: Arcane mark, daze, dancing lights*, detect magic, ghost sound*, message*, read magic; color spray*, comprehend languages*, expeditious retreat, identify, mage armor, silent image*, unseen servant, ventriloquism; blur, detect thoughts*, hypnotic pattern*, invisibility, minor image*, mirror image; arcane sight, clairaudience/clairvoyance*, dispel magic, displacement, major image*, tongues*; greater invisibility, hallucinatory terrain*, illusory wall*, phantasmal killer, rainbow pattern*, shadow conjuration; break enchantment, dream*, mirage arcana*, persistent image*, shadow evocation, telekinesis

The birth of a star is an event deeply imbued with the potential for creating new life. Indeed, it is this explosive moment that creates worlds, which through their interaction with the sun become the home for almost all living things in the Known Galaxy. For that reason, some scholars who study life in the void believe that interstellar nebulae are inherently male in nature. Others disagree, however, arguing that the process if giving birth is a distinctly female ability. Whatever the case, it is confirmed that sometimes parts of those nebulae develop intelligence of their own, that they obsess about wondering what that life might have been like on their worlds, and therefore use their magical powers to learn more the character of other creatures.

Sentient nebulae wield powerful illusory magic. They use it to test the living creatures who pass through them, creating phantasmal situations which lure beings into making moral and ethical judgments. It is believed that these entities are neutral in nature, but tales persist of ones that seek to corrupt mortals or lead them toward spiritual improvement. Some legends even tell of how a sentient nebula, when an aethership bearing a beautiful woman passed through it, became enamored with her and thus pursued that vessel throughout the void, trying to win her love.

Sentient nebulae are also known to possess a rare and magical substance known as nova dust. This material is imbued with the potential for creating new life, and so possesses curative qualities when used by living creatures.

Plot Hooks for the Sentient Nebula
In a previous post I presented stats for a sentient nebula, a type of elemental that remains after a star explodes. Detailed below, then, are some suggestions for storylines that can be developed based upon that creature.
  • The nebula can use divination magic to read the minds of those it encounters, and then present illusory situations to tempt them.
  • Given that it can travel vast distances, the nebula could give the PCs a hint of a threat that they might encounter in the future. This might even be too powerful for them at their current level, allowing them to see its danger.
  • Such visions could thus provide a preview of a specific upcoming encounter.
  • Alternately, the nebula could recreate a situation that it previously witnessed, or about which it learned through its divination; this might even be an event that the PCs recognize from history or legend, such as a battle from a previous campaign.
  • The nebula could create an illusory, idyllic situation for the PCs—one in which all of their wants and needs are met, but one that is, ultimately, boring. Do they choose to remain in their false utopia, or try to escape from it?
  • The visions could slip into truly weird situations, such as settings with much different creatures and species, or ones with higher levels of technology, etc.
  • The nebula could have learned of a riddle, puzzle or conundrum from another being's thoughts, and now presents it to the PCs.
  • As mentioned in the write-up for the nebula, it could fall in love with a particularly beautiful or charismatic mortal, and try to win that individual's favor.

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