While planning today’s new template, I was thinking to myself, what could be done to make a boring monster more interesting? This led me to the question of which monsters are the most boring, and as much as it pains me to admit it, the answer was animals. So what can be done to make animals more interesting? Make them magical beasts and give them a whole lot of crazy abilities! Thus, the totem animal template was born.
Totem animals are powerful animals and vermin who possess extraordinary spiritual powers. Given their abilities by potent beliefs of mortals, these creatures stop being natural beasts and instead become magical entities whose powers and very existence are closely linked to a place or an individual. Because they are created by mortals, no two are quite the same: though all possess similar powers, the personalities and tactics of totem animals vary greatly from individual to individual. Usually totem animals look after an individual or community, serving as guardians or advisers. Others are revered sprits of the land, local legends, or even the very stuff of nightmares which torments the person or place they are tied to. In general, totem animals are good-aligned, though this is not always the case, with totem animals who were formerly of the vermin type being the most likely to evil-aligned.
Creating a Totem Animal
“Totem animal” is an inherited template that can be applied to any creature of the animal or vermin types (hereafter referred to as the base creature). A totem animal retains all the special abilities and special qualities of the base creature, except as noted here.
CR: Same as the base creature +2.
Type: The base creature’s type changes to magical beast.
Alignment: The base creature’s alignment changes to match the alignment of the individual selected in its totem binding special ability, or to true neutral if its totem binding is instead with a location.
Defensive Abilities: A totem animal gains the following defensive ability.
Spiritual Being: A totem animal is partially a living being and partially a creature of the spirit world. Normally, a totem animal remains in spirit form; while in spirit form, it has no physical body and cannot be attacked or affected by any physical force. While in spirit form, a totem animal retains its normal senses and may move about within the limits of its totem binding in order to observe the world around it. A totem animal whose totem binding is with a living creature may communicate with the individual while in spirit form, but not with other creatures. At any time, as a free action, a totem animal can choose to manifest as a physical entity. A totem animal can manifest physically for a number of minutes per day equal to its CR; this time need not be spent consecutively but must be spent in 1-minute increments. A totem animal cannot be killed while its totem binding lasts, and if it would be reduced to 0 hit points or fewer, it is instead returned to spirit form for 24 hours.
Totem Binding: A totem animal is bound to a single living creature or a single area of no more than 1 square mile per CR, which it must always remain near to. A totem animal bound to a living creature must always remain within 100 feet of that creature at all times. A totem animal who is separated from the creature it is bound to in this way returns to spirit form. A totem animal bound to a living creature is always adjacent to the living creature while in spirit form. If the living creature a totem animal is bound to dies, the totem animal may choose to form a new totem binding with one of that creature’s descendants. If it does not, the totem animal is permanently slain.
A totem animal bound to a location cannot leave that location. It gains the favored terrain bonuses of a ranger whose level is equal to the totem animal’s CR for that terrain, though the totem animal cannot select other favored terrains. A totem animal bound to a location can be permanently slain if the type of terrain within that location ever changes from what it was when the totem animal was bound to it.
Special Attacks: A totem animal gains the following special attacks.
Melee: A totem animal’s natural attacks deal damage as though it were one size category larger than it actually is.
Spirit Combat: A totem animal is a potent force against unnatural creatures and haunts. A totem animal’s natural attacks can affect incorporeal creatures and haunts, and deal full damage to incorporeal creatures. A totem animal’s natural attacks automatically overcome damage reduction of outsiders with an alignment subtype different from its alignment.
Ability Scores: Str +4, Dex +4, Con +4, Int +2d6, Wis +2, Cha +2.
Languages: A totem animal can speak all the languages of the living creature it is bound to via its totem binding, or can speak Common if instead bound to a location. A totem animal never receives bonus languages for a high Intelligence score, though it may purchase ranks in Linguistics if it later gains Hit Dice or levels.