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Sphinx, Cynosphinx

A jackal’s head draped in a tattered headdress extends from a winged, leonine body.

Cynosphinx CR 6

Source Pathfinder #82: Secrets of the Sphinx pg. 84
XP 2,400
NE Large magical beast
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +8


AC 20, touch 10, flat-footed 19 (+1 Dex, +10 natural, –1 size)
hp 76 (9d10+27)
Fort +9, Ref +7, Will +5
Immune disease


Speed 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +13 (1d8+7 plus disease and trip), 2 claws +13 (1d6+5)
Space 10 ft., Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks devour secret lore, disease, pounce, powerful bite, trip
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 9th; concentration +11)
At will—speak with dead (DC 15)
3/day—detect thoughts (DC 14)
1/day—animate dead, seek thoughtsAPG (DC 15)


Str 20, Dex 13, Con 17, Int 15, Wis 14, Cha 14
Base Atk +9; CMB +15 (+17 trip); CMD 26 (32 vs. trip)
Feats Cleave, Combat Expertise, Flyby Attack, Improved Trip, Power Attack
Skills Fly +4, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (any one) +11, Perception +8, Sense Motive +8, Survival +8
Languages Common, Draconic, Sphinx


Environment warm deserts and hills
Organization solitary
Treasure standard

Special Abilities

Devour Secret Lore (Su) When a cynosphinx reduces a living creature below zero hit points, it steals some of its essence. Treat the cynosphinx as if it were the target of an aid spell with a caster level equal to the dying target’s Hit Dice. A cynosphinx can only affect a single creature with this effect once in a 24 hour period.

Disease (Ex) Carrion fever: Bite—injury; save Fort DC 17; onset 1 day; frequency 1 day; effect 2 Con damage; cure 2 consecutive saves.

Powerful Bite (Ex) A cynosphinx adds 1-1/2 times its Strength bonus to its bite attack.


Cynosphinxes are hoarders of secret knowledge and guardians of abandoned ruins. Those who intrude upon the realm of a cynosphinx and fail to offer a tribute of secret knowledge provoke the beast to savage anger. Whereas androsphinxes barter information for the sake of achieving enlightenment, cynosphinxes strive to learn secrets to gain power over others. Often, a cynosphinx enters a parley hoping to secretly learn clandestine information with its ability to read its target’s thoughts, steering the conversation toward such topics with leading questions. Quick to anger, the cynosphinx kills those it feels are inferior, knowing that it still has the opportunity to converse with the trespasser after its death. If the knowledge it seeks is relayed during clever, amusing conversation, the sphinx rewards the provider with invaluable clues to a desired object or location, or simply safe passage through its territory, though the cynosphinx rarely shares any of its own secrets willingly. A cynosphinx stands 12 feet tall at its powerful shoulders. Built of muscular flesh and sinew, a cynosphinx weighs roughly 1,200 pounds.


Rare even among sphinxes, a cynosphinx is a terror of the desert. Were it not for its fixation on secrets, it would be a scourge to all who dwell among the sands. Its canine head grants it a sense of smell superior to that of other sphinxes, giving it the ability to stalk prey in conditions of poor visibility. Though it possesses massive wings, a cynosphinx is an ungainly flier. In addition to hit-andrun attacks from above, one of its favored tactics is to hover over an enemy and whip up a cloud of dust and debris to blind its prey.

Like all sphinxes, a cynosphinx is long-lived, but it has a particularly selfish desire to cling to its lengthy existence, making it a careful combatant who will flee rather than perish. This obsession usually leads a cynosphinx to search out the secrets of longevity and immortality, not just for its own use, but also because it knows the value mortals place on such secrets.

A cynosphinx requires little sustenance and even prefers to feed on carrion, finding rotting flesh more palatable. Because of this, an area with a few hundred gravesites can sustain a cynosphinx for several millennia. Even when a cynosphinx makes a fresh kill, the creature lets it rot for several days before devouring the carcass. Its diet mainly consists of the decaying corpses found abandoned within its lair, with bone marrow being a particular treat. Due to its affinity with the dead, and its obsessive need to learn secrets, a cynosphinx always interacts with its exhumed morsels, speaking with the dead and learning what it can before fully consuming the body. Like a scholar devouring knowledge from a book, a cynosphinx pores over both the physical and intellectual particulars of its strange corpse diet.

When a cynosphinx it sees fit to mate—usually once its will to live ends—it needs a gynosphinx, just like other sphinxes do. However, due to the cynosphinx’s disdain for mating, not to mention gynosphinxes’ utter disgust toward cynosphinxes, this type of union is rare. In nearly every case, the resulting offspring from such a pairing is a cynosphinx. Gynosphinxes want nothing to do with such offspring, and offer no protest when the cynosphinx takes the progeny away. Before it dies, the new father brings the child to its lair, leaving its progeny a carcass to learn from and feed upon.

Habitat & Society

Cynosphinxes dwell among the abandoned burial sites of civilized folk. Due to their obsession with lost secrets and their steady diet of carrion, a cynosphinx’s ideal lair is a graveyard, tomb, or necropolis. When a cynosphinx takes up residence at such a site, the otherwise contemplative creature defends its territory with tenacity. However, if a visitor approaches a cynosphinx’s territory with the promise of divulging secret lore, the sphinx may grant an audience. In such an instance, if the promise of lore fails to satisfy the cynosphinx, the intruder finds herself quickly under attack. Fortunately, many tombs and necropolises have tight nooks and narrow crannies far too small for a cynosphinx to maneuver in. If a clever traveler offers to explore these regions for the obsessive cynosphinx, she may find this arrangement to be just the bartering chip she needs to leave the sphinx’s territory alive.

Solitary by nature, a cynosphinx truly feels comfortable only among the dead, and leaves its lair only for brief, localized patrols or when a longer journey promises to unearth lost knowledge. Cynosphinxes are always male and treat other sphinxes as inferior, save for androsphinxes. Cynosphinxes ignore criosphinxes, subjugate hieracosphinxes, and only associate with gynosphinxes for the purpose of mating—an act cynosphinxes find revolting. If a cynosphinx finds its only recourse to extend its legacy is through mating, this is usually done through blackmailing a gynosphinx or resorting to other forms of coercion or subterfuge. In fact, a cynosphinx would rather discover a means of extending its own lifespan than sire an offspring—as they view even their own progeny as threats to their well-guarded store of knowledge. Toward the androsphinx, the cynosphinx harbors a seething jealousy. Envious of the androsphinx’s superior intellect, wisdom, and guile, a cynosphinx will plot to murder any androsphinx it discovers. Cynosphinxes believe they can extract a wealth of knowledge and learn powerful secrets from the carcass of a slaughtered androsphinx using their speak with dead ability. If a cynosphinx’s food supply is abundant, the one category of creatures with whom it will ally is the undead. It is common for a cynosphinx to take a place at the head of an undead menace or even to serve a greater power such as a graveknight or a lich.

Cynosphinxes as Mounts

Although they have the physical ability to carry a rider, cynosphinxes cannot be trained as mounts. They are intelligent beings who choose for themselves whether to accept a rider. A worthy rider is usually a powerful undead creature of evil alignment with whom the cynosphinx has an obsession, or who has promised eldritch secrets in return for service. Often, a creature petitioning a cynosphinx for this arrangement must provide such knowledge regularly for the cynosphinx to continue to grant its consent as a steed. A cynosphinx is considered a special cohort, not a normal mount.

Creatures in "Sphinx" Category

Elder Sphinx16


Source Bestiary 3 pg. 250
The enigmatic sphinxes are closely related, yet diverse in appearance, intellect, and personality. All combine a lion's body, a falcon's wings, and a head of some other species. The most intelligent and powerful of the species sport humanoid heads—either male or female. The two types of humanoid-headed sphinxes are, in fact, separate races, not merely separate genders. These humanoid-headed races are often called androsphinxes and gynosphinxes, terms many sphinxes consider demeaning. Lesser sphinxes have the heads of beasts and are invariably male; the most commonly encountered are the ram-headed criosphinxes and the savage, falcon-headed criosphinxes. Sphinxes deny any common ancestry with other leonine hybrids such as griffins and manticores, let alone celestial beings like lammasus, and find such lines of conversation distasteful.

Sphinxes prefer warm desert climes and the hills nearby, both for the comforting warmth and the pleasant solitude. The more intelligent sphinxes have contrary social natures, alternately craving conversation and isolation as the mood strikes them. Indeed, a bored or irritated sphinx often takes leave in the midst of discussion, or perhaps slays and devours its petitioners out of sheer annoyance.

While sphinxes as a race are not truly immortal, they are fantastically long-lived, save for the violent hieracosphinxes, who rarely survive their second decade. Unless slain by accident, violence, or misadventure, other sphinxes seem to pass on only when they have at last wearied of living and will themselves to die. The older a sphinx is, the less it needs consume. The oldest of sphinxes dine perhaps once per century, making them ideal guardians for monuments, temples, and tombs.

Sphinxes prefer to converse in their own tongue, but most speak the languages of humans and dragons as well. Addressing a sphinx in its own language with all due politeness and deference goes a long way to ensure peaceful conversation. All sphinxes save hieracosphinxes enjoy stimulating conversation, though for such long-lived creatures their memory for detail is sadly lacking. In some cultures, “a mind like a sphinx” serves as a sarcastic alternative to “scatter-brained.”

Though sphinxes have a reputation for loving riddles, in truth, only gynosphinxes truly enjoy them. Androsphinxes prefer lofty philosophical discussions, while criosphinxes prefer worldly topics or fawning praise. Hieracosphinxes rarely converse at all, and respond only to threats from creatures more powerful than they are.

Neighboring humanoids generally adopt a policy of avoiding local sphinxes, as the creatures grow increasingly irritable each time their solitude is invaded. Even so, once a sphinx's lair is known, it can expect a steady flow of visitors in search of the fabled wisdom of its race. Some sphinxes move to quieter abodes once the interruptions become too much to bear; others devour a few of the more irritating supplicants until the visits cease.

Sphinxes have peculiar breeding habits, contributing in no small part to their scarcity and the strange diversity of their species. Indeed, matters of mating occupy much of the thoughts of all of the sphinxes save the prudish androsphinxes. The female gynosphinxes have nothing but scorn for animal-headed sphinxes, craving only the attentions of the masculine androsphinxes. For their part, androsphinxes consider petty rutting a waste of time and energy, both of which are better spent on loftier pursuits than the fleeting pleasures of the flesh. Criosphinxes and hieracosphinxes alike lust after gynosphinxes. The former abase themselves and attempt to curry favor with lavish gifts. Hieracosphinxes scorn any such civilized gestures, and mate by force on the rare occasions they have a female at their mercy.

From these rare couplings, two to four sphinxes of any type may be born, regardless of the breed of the parents. Instead, the nature of the coupling itself influences the species of the resulting offspring. From those rare matings engendered by love or respect, androsphinxes and gynosphinxes are born. Those couplings motivated by carnal lust or selfish urges most often produce criosphinxes. Hieracosphinxes come from acts of hate and violence, and their disgusted mothers quickly abandon them to the mercy of the elements, lest the young turn against them. Of all the males, only the criosphinx willingly helps rear its own young, often as part of the bargain for mating in the first place.

People of the desert sometimes honor the sphinx's form by crafting great stone sphinxes, often bearing the faces of their own rulers and nobles. Legend holds the first such monuments were modeled on the eldest and greatest of sphinxes, paragons of knowledge and wisdom far larger in size than any common sphinx. The oldest and largest of these sphinxes settled into the desert sands when at last they tired of immortality, and as they passed into their final sleep, their bodies became as sandstone.

These elder sphinxes may be androsphinxes or gynosphinxes, or very rarely criosphinxes. They have at minimum the advanced template, many additional Hit Dice, and a size of at least Huge (and more often Gargantuan or Colossal). They can use commune, contact other plane, and legend lore as spell-like abilities once each per day (CL equals the sphinx's CR), and frequently possess other powers and special attacks. Many such sphinxes can enter a state of stony suspended animation that resembles the freeze special ability, though they cannot easily rouse themselves from such slumber. Other sphinxes, even the bestial hieracosphinxes, defer to elder sphinxes in all matters, treating them almost as gods.