J is for Jyoti, Light-Spitting Birds

J is hard. Fewer monsters begin with J than with B, and I wrote about how rough that was. The issue again is in which monsters I’ve used; I’ve dealt with juggernauts a few times, and I love the jahi even though its CR must have been determined by rolling a d20 and publishing the result, and one day I’m going to have a joystealer as a campaign villain. But I’ve only properly used one J creature in the last ten years.

Jyoti are humanoid vultures from the Positive Energy Plane who love light. They hate undead and shadow creatures, traditional enemies of PCs, but that is as far as they go toward being reasonable creatures with whom characters can ally. Their Bestiary 2 entry takes great pains to describe how easily offended they are, how they’ll attack anybody with even the slightest provocation lest they be attacked themselves, and how they destroy any artifacts or followers of gods whenever they get the chance. Though they wield positive energy, they do it in a way that cannot possibly heal themselves or their allies. Their biggest enemies are sceaduinar, monsters with a lower CR, which gives me the impression that all else equal they’d rather punch down than fight a worthy foe. If they were more popular they’d be the poster child for the trope Light is Not Good, but as it is they’re not even mentioned in the Pathfinder section of that page even though three other creatures from the same book are, so it’s fair to say they’re pretty obscure.

In the Eight Arms and the Shadow Invasion, the players started off the campaign fighting shadow creatures, began fighting light creatures in Act 2, and ended up in a three-way free-for-all against both factions. The light-based enemies were shored up by jyoti, who brought a martial aspect to the fight without blinding everybody, enemy or ally, nearby. They were a decent CR for the party, such that the players could fight three or four of them at once in an ostensibly balanced encounter, and they were close enough to harpies and other winged creatures that I could use the minis I had on hand for them. They fit perfectly.

But what made them fun was taking their hatred of shadows and undead up to eleven. They gave the players passage to the Plane of Shadow, but only because the players said they wanted to stop the flow of shadow creatures at its source. They did require that the players meet their exacting standards for allies, and one of those was “don’t be undead”. This would normally not be a problem except that the party included one particularly handsome necromancer. By his agreement with them, he was blocked from using most of his undead allies for the entire Plane of Shadow section of the campaign.

This is where the jyoti became worthwhile, in that they were the foil for a specific character and his powers. They forced him to work with a limited resource set, stuck only with his spells and the undead he could summon instead of call from slightly off-screen. At the same time, meeting them foreshadowed fighting them, especially in their attacks that could obliterate his minions without trouble. I used the jyoti exactly as they are in the book, but presented them so they were an interesting threat. Because of how I introduced them and how they interacted with the characters, I got to show off how they could attack the party in means besides hit points, and they rubbed the party the wrong way so the inevitable fight against them served as a payoff. By that time the players were prepared for their attacks, and they got to be big smart heroes fighting the good jerks.

Yes, this was the same campaign in which the players fought angels, why do you ask?

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