Far Corners of the World
The Far Corners of the World
Sand and Sun: Monsters of the Desert
By James Jacobs

The desert is home to a wide range of creatures, from relatively normal monsters like monstrous vermin and spider eaters to powerful and dangerous entities like sphinxes, mummies, and dragons. Deserts also serve as havens for those that seek to avoid the law, such as bandits, brigands, and even rogue outsiders. The latter sometimes seek a place to hide and rebuild their strength after being forced to flee their home plane. The hostile environment quickly weeds out lesser creatures, leaving only the strongest and most tenacious monsters to threaten explorers of the sandy waste, guaranteeing that any creatures a group encounters are tough and difficult.

The three monsters presented here are no exception.

Gargantuan Undead (Fire)
Hit Dice: 18d12 (117 hp)
Initiative: -4
Speed: 30 ft.
AC: 17 (-4 size, -4 Dex, +15 natural), touch 2, flat-footed 17
Attacks: Slam +14 melee
Damage: Slam 3d6+13
Face/Reach: 30 ft. by 30 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks: Desiccation aura, disease, dreadful chanting
Special Qualities: DR 15/+1, fire subtype, SR 20, undead traits
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +11
Abilities: Str 28, Dex 3, Con -, Int 5, Wis 10, Cha 17
Skills: Climb +15, Intuit Direction +3, Listen +5, Spot +5
Feats: Power Attack
Climate/Terrain: Warm desert and underground
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 12
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 19-36 HD (Gargantuan), 37-54 HD (Colossal)

The dreaded boneworm is an amalgamation of dead desert-dwelling monks and priests. The insane tangle of bodies is fueled by a hatred of the deity and religion that failed to protect them all from starvation, thirst, and general insanity.

A boneworm is a massive creature that rarely measures less than 50 feet in length. Its wormlike shape consists of a mass of thousands of charred bones bound together by a thin membrane of tendons and scorched, leathery flesh. Hundreds of half-formed faces -- faces of the bodies the boneworm formed from -- press out of the leathery flesh at random points on the creature. These faces constantly contort into expressions of madness or rage, and they endlessly cry out twisted hymns and warped prayers to mock those deities they once revered.

The original boneworm came into existence when a large monastery located in the depths of a desert suddenly succumbed to a terrible disease known as bonefire. Some believe this disease came from one of the lower planes or even the Elemental Plane of Fire. In any case, the disease spread quickly, causing its victims to burn to death from the inside out as their skeletons became infused with terrible heat. It wasn't until after the victims died that the true purpose of the disease made itself known: The bodies of those who died of bonefire drew together and began to grow numerous new bones. The bones twisted together in a terrible braid of bone and dead flesh until it finally formed the monstrous abomination known as a boneworm.

Boneworms have little interest in communicating with anyone, but they do understand the Common tongue.


A boneworm is a near mindless entity. The combined madness of the dozens of undead bodies that comprise its being leaves little room for organized thought or combat tactics. As a result, a boneworm simply slithers toward any living creatures it detects and attacks them by rearing up and slamming them with its body.

Desiccation Aura (Su): Living creatures within 30 feet of a boneworm are subject to the monster's desiccation aura. Each round, a victim of this aura must make a Fortitude save (DC 19) or suffer 1 point of Constitution drain as moisture seeps from his body through the skin and slips through the air toward the boneworm. The boneworm heals 5 points of damage each round its aura desiccates living creatures (despite the total amount of Constitution drain inflicted, since a portion of the moisture is lost to evaporation), gaining any excess as temporary hit points.

Disease (Ex): Any creature hit by a boneworm's slam attack must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 19) or contract bonefire. The incubation period is instantaneous, and the disease deals 1d4 points of temporary Charisma damage and 1d4 points of temporary Constitution damage (see Disease, in the Dungeon Master's Guide). Victims of bonefire break into fevers as their bones pulsate with light and heat. They stink of cooked flesh, and their skeletons become visible from within their blistering bodies after two hours (unless the victim is treated effectively). Bonefire is highly contagious and is also transmitted by physical contact. Anyone who touches a person or creature diseased with bonefire (whether victims are alive or dead) must make a Fortitude save (DC 19) or catch the disease. A dead body remains infected with bonefire for a week after its death, whereupon the skeleton finally burns out in a spectacular flash of light. If at any time 18 or more bodies infected with bonefire are located within 30 feet of each other, the bodies rapidly meld together, as if drawn by a fell telekinesis, to a point at the center of the spread. Over the course of only 1 round, the bodies bind together and form a boneworm with a number of Hit Dice equal to the number of bodies that formed it.

Dreadful Chanting (Su): A boneworm's numerous mouths constantly chant half-remembered hymns and prayers. This chanting, consisting as it does of dozens of different hymns, sounds like a swarm of giant flies trying to mimic human voices with their buzzing. This effect unnerves and disturbs the living, especially those who can cast divine spells. A living creature within 90 feet of a chanting boneworm must make a Will saving throw (DC 19) against this mind-affecting, sonic fear effect or become shaken. Divine spellcasters suffer a -4 penalty on this saving throw. A shaken creature suffers a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, and saving throws. Additionally, a divine spellcaster must make a successful Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level) to cast a spell in the area of the boneworm's chanting.

Fire Subtype: A boneworm is immune to fire damage but takes double damage from cold unless a saving throw for half damage is allowed. In that case, it takes half damage on a success and double damage on a failure.

Undead Traits: A boneworm is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death, effects, necromantic effects, mind-influencing effects, and any effect requiring a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. It is not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Negative energy heals it, and it is not at risk of death from massive damage but is destroyed at 0 hit points or less. A boneworm has darkvision (60-foot range). It cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if it is willing.

Fiery Sandhog
Medium-Size Aberration
Hit Dice: 4d8+4 (22 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 40 ft., burrow 20 ft. (sand and loose soil only), climb 20 ft.
AC: 17 (+1 Dex, +6 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 16
Attacks: 4 bites +5 melee and 2 claws +0 melee
Damage: Bite 1d4+2, claw 1d6+1
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Heat ray +4 ranged touch, poison
Special Qualities: Control sand, darkvision 60 ft., fire immunity
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +4
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 11
Skills: Climb +10, Hide +8, Jump +9, Spot +6
Climate/Terrain: Warm desert
Organization: Solitary, pair, or pack (3-12)
Challenge Rating: 4
Treasure: None
Alignment: Usually neutral
Advancement: 5-8 HD (Medium-size), 9-12 HD (Large)

The fiery sandhog is a brutish and constantly hungry creature that uses the sands of the desert to catch and immobilize its prey.

The fiery sandhog looks only superficially like a large, bald razorback hog. A spiny row of crystalline spikes runs down its back and bristles on its shoulders. Its powerful legs end in large, clawed flippers that can propel it through sand and loose earth with surprising speed. Its vaguely boarlike head splits at the snout into four long trunks, each of which ends in a fanged maw. A pair of beady, feral red eyes glares from its face, belying its underlying intelligence and cunning.

Fiery sandhogs hunt in packs and are constantly on the move through their desert hunting grounds. They do not make permanent lairs. Often, a particularly aggressive or brutal sandhog goes rogue and strikes out on its own; these sandhogs are usually much larger in size and are truly dangerous menaces.

Fiery sandhogs do not speak any languages themselves, although most of them can understand the Common tongue. They communicate with their own kind with a complex series of grunts and squeals.


A fiery sandhog waits patiently under the surface of the sand for victims to come within range of its control sand ability so that it can immobilize them. Once its victims are caught, the sandhog burrows up as cautiously as possible to poison them. When the sandhog fights foes it cannot entrap with its control sand ability or affect with poison, it retreats and lashes out with its heat ray.

Heat Ray (Su): A sandhog collects heat from the sun in the spiny protrusions on its back and shoulders. It can focus this energy into a 70-foot-long ray of heat, which does 2d6 points of fire damage to the victim with a successful ranged touch attack.

Poison (Ex): The sandhog's poison causes the victim's muscles to burn with pain and cramp up, which reduces agility and eventually renders the victim immobile. A fiery sandhog delivers its poison (Fortitude save DC 13) with each successful bite attack. The initial and secondary damage is the same (1d4 points of temporary Strength damage).

Control Sand (Su): A fiery sandhog can control the density of sand, loose soil, and gravel to a range of 140 feet. It can affect a radius of 20 feet of sand. As a standard action, the sandhog can make the sand or soil in this area flow like water to a depth of 3 feet for a brief instant. Any Large or smaller creature in this area must make a Reflex saving throw (DC 13) to avoid losing its footing. Those who succeed stay atop the sand, while those who fail become trapped in the sand when it resumes its normal density a few seconds later. Such victims cannot move from their location and suffer a -2 circumstance penalty to their Dexterity scores until they escape. Escape from the sand is possible with a Strength check or an Escape Artist check (DC 21); each attempt requires a full round action.

Medium-Size Fey
Hit Dice: 15d6+75 (127 hp)
Initiative: +9
Speed: 40 ft., fly 120 ft. (perfect)
AC: 26 (+9 Dex, +7 natural armor), touch 26, flat-footed 17
Attacks: Touch +9 melee touch plus sandtouch, or sandblast +16 ranged
Damage: Touch 1d10+7, sandblast 4d6
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Gaze of ruin, sandtouch, sonorous voice, spell-like abilities
Special Qualities: Absorb fire, acid resistance 30, awaken desert, DR 25/+4, desert awareness, low-light vision, regeneration 5, sonic resistance 30, SR 29
Saves: Fort +10, Ref +18, Will +12
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 29, Con 20, Int 22, Wis 17, Cha 25
Skills: Balance +11, Bluff +14, Concentration +15, Craft (sculpture) +11, Diplomacy +9, Innuendo +8, Intimidate +9, Intuit Direction +4, Jump +7, Knowledge (arcana) +11, Knowledge (nature) +11, Listen +10, Perform (song) +8, Spellcraft +16, Spot +10, Tumble +16, Use Magic Device +22, Wilderness Lore +13
Feats: Alertness, Combat Casting, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Expertise, Mobility, Spell Focus (Evocation), Spring Attack, Track, Whirlwind Attack
Climate/Terrain: Any desert
Organization: Solitary, pair, or cabal (3-7)
Challenge Rating: 18
Treasure: No coins, triple goods, double items
Alignment: Usually chaotic neutral
Advancement: By character class

The desert holds innumerable secrets. Those who penetrate to the depths of a vast desert and survive the inhospitable terrain, heat, and monsters always emerge with tales of how the desert itself seemed to rise up against them, repelling intruders from the true depths of its reaches. These explorers, unwitting or not, have encountered one of the most powerful and dangerous denizens of the desert: the mysterious siabrie.

The siabrie rarely appears to outsiders, and then usually when the intruder has earned its wrath. Few can survive the full focus of an angry siabrie, so word of their existence is slow to spread. A siabrie looks like a beautiful or handsome humanoid, with willowy arms and long, golden hair. Its skin is coppery and upon close inspection seems to be made of fine sand. Its wings are glimmering and crystalline, like stained glass, and its eyes are like the most beautiful of desert sunsets. But when angered, a siabrie undergoes a terrible transformation. Its skin runs like glass and glows with fire, and its face and eyes burn with a seething rage like the light of a thousand suns. An angry siabrie's form shifts rapidly between bestial and humanoid as its rage is made flesh.

A siabrie's territory in a large desert can extend over dozens of square miles, and each one is perfectly content to wander its dunes and cliffs alone. Nevertheless, every few hundred years, a siabrie can grow lonely and seek out the companionship of others of its kind. When a siabrie cannot find other siabries to visit at these times, it has been known to assume the form of a humanoid and visit communities for entertainment. Rarely, a group of up to seven siabries congregates in one area of the desert, either to share knowledge and companionship or to band together to repel a particularly dangerous or vile threat to their homes. For the most part, though, they avoid crowds and are content to live their immortal lives alone.

Siabries can understand and speak any language, as long as the speaker is in the siabrie's desert. Otherwise, they can communicate in Auran, Ignan, Sylvan, and Terran.


An angry siabrie is a force to be reckoned with. It tries to repulse undesirables from its domain using its formidable spell-like abilities, its sonorous voice attack, and by awakening the very desert itself to drive them off. If these tactics fail, the siabrie manifests in the thick of the intruders and lays waste to them with its touch. A siabrie's touch burns and desiccates tissue, and it erodes away unliving targets like undead and constructs. Damage done is 1d10 points plus additional damage equal to the siabrie's Charisma modifier. The siabrie makes full use of Whirlwind Attack and Spring Attack with this devastating touch, and, against those creatures who can outrun it, the creature calls up stinging blasts of burning sand out of nothingness to strike at a distance of up to 100 feet (and up to 10 range increments).

Gaze of Ruin (Su): Anyone within 30 feet of a siabrie who meets the creature's glowing red eyes must succeed at a Will saving throw (DC 24) against this mind-affecting fear effect or become overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and despair; these victims can do nothing but sink to the ground and sob until the siabrie leaves or deactivates her gaze weapon. Such victims are considered to be helpless. Siabries are immune to their own gaze attacks and to those of others of their kind. They can suppress this gaze weapon as a free action; when it is active the siabrie's eyes shine with a blinding light that illuminates a 60-foot radius.

Sandtouch (Su): Any creature damaged by a siabrie's touch attack must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 22) or turn to nonmagic sand. A creature slain in this manner can be restored to life only by a miracle, true resurrection, or wish.

Sonorous Voice (Su): As a full round action, a siabrie can lower the pitch of its voice and increase the volume so as to sound like the wind blowing over hollows in the rocks or dunes. The creature can maintain the sonorous voice for up to 1 minute by concentrating; each minute the radius of its effect increases by one mile. Each living creature with an Intelligence of 3 or greater in the area of effect must make a Will saving throw each round (DC 24) or become shaken. A shaken character who fails to save against this ability becomes frightened. A frightened creature who fails to save becomes panicked. A panicked creature who fails to save is rendered unconscious. All conditions imparted by this ability persist for 1d10 rounds after the siabrie ceases to use the ability. This is a mind-affecting, sonic, fear effect. A siabrie can use its sonorous voice once per hour.

Spell-Like Abilities: At will -- barkskin, create water, cure moderate wounds, detect magic, endure elements, faerie fire, flare, greater dispelling, heat metal, meld into stone, pass without trace, produce flame, protection from flame, spike stones, word of recall; 3/day--call lightning, control winds, flame strike, heal, shapechange, stone tell, wall of stone; 1/day--antipathy, control weather, creeping doom, fire storm, sunbeam, sunburst, sympathy, whirlwind, wind walk. Caster level 15th; save DC 17 + spell level.

Awaken Desert (Su): Once per day, a siabrie can awaken the dormant spirits of the desert. Treat this as an elemental swarm spell cast by a 20th-level druid, except that all of the elementals appear at once. The elementals summoned can be of any type but water elementals. Air elementals summoned by this ability appear as swirling clouds of sand, and their attacks gain +1d10 bonus damage from the scouring grit. Earth elementals summoned by this ability appear as shifting humanoid mounds of sand. They are immune to piercing damage. Fire elementals summoned by this ability are incredibly fast. They gain a +4 haste bonus to their AC and have a speed of 80 feet.

Absorb Fire (Su): A siabrie can absorb any fire spell or effect that strikes it. This immediately negates the effect and grants a number of temporary hit points to the siabrie equal to the fire damage that normally would have been done. If the fire effect was a permanent magical effect (such as a flaming weapon), the effect is merely suppressed for 1d4 rounds.

Desert Awareness (Su): While in a desert, a siabrie uses the environment to best advantage. The creature cannot be flanked, can detect invisible creatures as if under the effects of a see invisibility spell (caster level 15th), and is immune to all mind-affecting attacks.

Regeneration (Ex): Damage dealt to a siabrie is treated as subdual damage, which automatically heals at a rate of 5 points per round. Cold and lawful attacks (this includes lawful spells that do damage, lawful weapons, and the natural attacks of lawful outsiders) deal normal damage to the creature, which doesn't go away. Attack forms that don't deal hit point damage ignore regeneration, and it does not restore hit points lost from starvation, thirst, or suffocation.

Siabrie Characters

A siabrie's favored class is sorcerer, although many siabrie become druids, as well.

Next month, we look get a glimpse of some of the
magic treasures you can find in the desert.

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