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Kami

Source Bestiary 3 pg. 159
Kami are ancient, mystical, and otherworldly spirits created eons ago by the gods. Originally intended as guardians of those parts of nature that could not protect themselves, kami have proven remarkably adaptive. As the nature of reality changes, so do the kami.

There are countless species of kami—in theory, every type of animal, plant, object, and location could be served by its own type of kami. These are collectively called “wards” by kami, who often think of them similar to how a human might think of a young child placed into his or her care. In practice, there are far more wards in creation than there are kami. As such, all kami seek to reproduce and thus expand their influence—the more kami, the more wards what benefit from their protection. Accordingly, kami influence is usually regional in nature—the kami simply aren't numerous enough yet to protect all of creation.

Further complicating attempts to catalog and categorize kami is the fact that there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to what sorts of wards get specific types of kami. The jinushigami, for example, are a race of kami that associate with all manner of regions, while the kodama concern themselves narrowly with the protection of specific trees. To the kami, these apparently arbitrary classifications make perfect sense, and their attempts to explain the reasoning to others generally result in confused listeners and frustrated kami. One thing that does remain constant, though, is the relationship between a kami's size and the import of its ward. A kami associated with a knife, frog, or single pebble in a stream would generally be quite small and unimposing, while a kami associated with a mountain, redwood tree, or elephant would be proportionally larger and more powerful. Of course, even here there seem to be exceptions, and frustrated scholars often wonder only half-jokingly whether the gods themselves vary these rules only to cause scholastic arguments and frustration.

Kami come into existence either as a spontaneously manifesting spirit or as the reincarnation of a particularly noble soul. Souls of creatures who died to protect an element of nature are particularly prone to returning to life as a kami. In this latter way, many kami arise from the souls of dedicated rangers or druids who perished while defending their homelands, or monks who spent a lifetime meditating on the serenity of nature. Once reincarnated, however, few kami remember any of their former lives, and their forms never resemble their former bodies. The rare kami who do recall their prior lives are the kami most likely to become more than mere guardians—these kami often take class levels and grow quite powerful.

Kami exist as ever-morphing spirits rather than souls trapped in concrete forms. Most exist to watch over a single tree, stone, or bend of a stream, and can have no more influence on the world than a single insect. A kami spends the majority of its existence merged with its ward—in this shape, it has no ability to interact with the world at all, but it can observe its surroundings with ease. There is no reliable way to determine whether an object, plant, animal, or location is protected by a kami, so those who travel or live in regions where kami are common generally assume that everything has a kami guardian. The kami do little to dissuade this, since the belief that kami are present is often just as potent a protection as having a kami in the first place.

All kami can assume physical form. Most somewhat resemble their ward, but again, in apparent eagerness to baffle and frustrate scholars, this is not always the case. When a kami assumes physical form, it always initially appears adjacent to its ward, manifesting suddenly as if teleporting. It is considered impolite by kami to pop into view, though—most prefer to manifest bodies while hiding, such as behind a tree, then step out of hiding to reveal themselves to those they wish to speak to.

Kami are generally a peaceable race, cohabitating with friendly fey and other magical beings that reside in natural environments. Dryads and treants alike find the company of kami to be quite favorable, as these noble spirits are willing to defend their lands to the death. Being more destructive, troublesome fey find themselves unwelcome in lands overseen by kami, who use the power of nature itself to obliterate intruders who make a nuisance of themselves. Kami's peaceful nature never vanishes more quickly than when they face oni, however, for no other creature is as hated by the kami as these. Kami view oni as defilers of the natural world and monsters whose goals and actions are in direct conflict with those of the nature spirits. When oni are spotted in areas guarded by kami, all kami alert each other to this intrusion, and band together to root out the dark presence. The fact that when a kami falls from grace it runs the risk of becoming an oni has much to do with this hatred—essentially, kami see oni as physical proof of their race's capacity for failure and shame.

While kami are rarely evil, they place the protection of their wards above all else. Often, this puts them at odds with other creatures, and as a result, many tend to view kami as troublemakers at best and outright monsters at worst. The kami have little care for how they are viewed by non-kami, of course—what matters to them is the safety of their wards.

The most powerful kami are known as kami lords. These mysterious and unique creatures are fantastically powerful, often on par with demigods or greater entities.

Creatures in "Kami" Category

NameCR
Dosojin7
Dunagh4
Fukujin3
Jinushigami20
Kaminari17
Kodama5
Shikigami2
Suijin14
Toshigami15
Zuishin10

Kami, Dosojin

This ancient, weathered statue of a venerable monk with a shaven head possesses an air of both reverence and patience.

Dosojin CR 7

Source Pathfinder #52: Forest of Spirits pg. 82
XP 3,200
NG Medium outsider (kami, native)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +4

Defense

AC 20, touch 13, flat-footed 17 (+3 Dex, +7 natural)
hp 85 (10d10+30); fast healing 4
Fort +10, Ref +6, Will +11
DR 5/cold iron; Immune bleed, mind-affecting effects, petrification, polymorph; Resist acid 10, electricity 10, fire 10

Offense

Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 slams +13 (1d6+2)
Special Attacks manipulate path, mimic statue
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +13)
Constant—know direction, misdirection (DC 15), speak with plants
3/day—dispel magic, fog cloud, quickened invisibility, longstrider, pass without trace, stone shape
1/day—locate object, mirage arcana (DC 18), nondetection
Special Attacks manipulate path, mimic statue

Statistics

Str 15, Dex 17, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 17
Base Atk +10; CMB +12; CMD 25
Feats Alertness, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Quicken Spell- Like Ability (invisibility), Weapon Focus (slam)
Skills Bluff +16, Diplomacy +16, Disguise +16 (+36 as statue), Handle Animal +16, Knowledge (nature) +14, Perception +4, Sense Motive +19, Survival +15
Languages Common; speak with plants, telepathy 100 ft.
SQ merge with ward, ward (roads or trails)

Ecology

Environment any land
Organization solitary, mated pair, or cloister (3–10)
Treasure standard

Special Abilities

Manipulate Path (Su) As a standard action, a dosojin can alter the structure and stability of its ward, making travel along its road or trail either easier or harder for specific groups of travelers. Helping travelers in this way makes a dosojin’s ward sturdier and more straightforward, allowing creatures to reach their destination in half the time they would normally take (though this does not grant a bonus to creatures’ movement speeds in combat). If a dosojin instead chooses to hinder travelers, it creates unexpected twists and turns within its ward, turning the path into difficult terrain and so causing travelers to take twice as long as they normally would to reach their destination. These effects last as long as the targets stay within the boundaries of the dosojin’s ward.

Mimic Statue (Su) As a standard action, a dosojin can assume the appearance of any Medium-sized statue, such as a stone marker, a religious icon, or a sculpture carved into the side of a cliff. A dosojin’s body is hard and has the texture of rough stone no matter what appearance it takes. A dosojin gains a +20 racial bonus on Disguise checks when imitating a statue in this manner.

Description

Dosojins are kami that take the form of stone icons and watch over roads and trails. They are often found in statue form at the edges of villages, along mountain passes, at the beginnings of tunnels and other major works of roadway construction, or at simple country crossroads. In urban areas, dosojins can sometimes be found on street corners and near bridges. They serve as the guardians of travelers, keeping the malicious and malevolent off the paths they diligently watch over. Wise travelers know to seek a dosojin’s blessing before traveling upon its ward, for falling out of favor with the kami of travel is a sure way to become lost or hampered. Pious mortal couples also seek out dosojin for their own reasons, as the kami are often regarded as patrons of fertility, and are known for their habit of choosing mates and standing beside one another for their entire lives. In many regions, the blessing of a dosojin is believed to ensure a long and happy marriage, as well as many healthy children.

The average dosojin stands about 4-1/2 feet tall and weighs upward of 400 pounds.

Ecology

As creatures that symbolize travel and connections, dosojins straddle the line between the lands of the civilized and the wild, often with one foot literally in each. Dosojins spend most of their time guarding their chosen sites in the form of nondescript statues and way markers, meditating motionlessly for seasons at a time. While semi-social dosojins within cities and other settlements are not uncommon, the majority of these kami stand along remote and secluded roads, going to great lengths to ensure that their true identity is not known. It is not uncommon for dosojins to create false duplicates of themselves using their stone shape ability, and these misleading markers inspire a certain amount of faith among those who look out for the kami of roads, as one can rarely tell if a sculpture is a dosojin by looks alone. A dosojin requires no sustenance, but it is not uncommon for travelers to leave offerings for a silent watcher, usually tributes of fruits, nuts, and potables, gifts that the kami gladly shares with hungry travelers, happy to inspire such good faith among passersby and to foster a system of give-and-take between strangers.

Dosojins are fond of the creatures that traverse their roads and trails, and maintain the roadways they guard to ensure both the ward’s survival and the safe travel of the voyagers that traverse it. Though they have an aff inity for the creatures that constructed their roadways, dosojins still protect their wards with the aggressive righteousness typical of all kami, and scarcely hesitate when faced with an oni or other evildoer seeking to disrupt the balance. Dosojin have little patience for those who litter on their roadways or unnecessarily obstruct the paths, and they take it upon themselves to discipline those they deem worthy of punishment. Rarely violent in an overt sense, dosojins prefer to use their magic in order to trick travelers into becoming lost, letting the wilds they travel through become the primary instruments of their demise. Dosojins prove quite deadly to those who fail to show kami proper respect, as they use their powers of illusion to lead troublesome caravans into impassible ravines and destructive oni onto unsound, derelict bridges.

Habitat & Society

Dosojins are odd among kami in that they are known to select mates from among their own kind, and it is not uncommon to see two seemingly redundant statues standing next to one another near a trailhead or fork in the road. While they do not reproduce in any typical sense of the word, dosojins are nonetheless sought out by mortal couples hoping to conceive, as many people see the kami as symbols of fertility. However, most scholars agree that dosojins do not collaborate in this way to foster fecundity, but rather act as symbols of camaraderie and companionship for travelers on their roads, encouraging teamwork and cooperation among groups of diverse individuals with a shared goal.

While most dosojins are content to watch over particular highways or roads for their entire existences and act as helpful guardians for most passersby, some choose instead to act as appraisers of travelers’ skills and bravery. Cunning individuals that indulge in acts of trickery more often than their tamer brethren, these rogue dosojins craft obstacles and trials for travelers they deem worthy of the challenge. The tests are not meant to substantially impede voyagers, and are simply forms of innocent fun that a dosojin uses to gauge the strength and resolve of various wayfarers. Those who surpass a dosojin’s challenges (which usually take the form of puzzles or illusions) earn the kami’s respect and the assurance of safe travel throughout the rest of its domain, while those who avoid the obstacle or overcome it through brutish and witless means garner only scorn. Careful travelers know to watch out for the statuelike kami when making their way along potentially protected roads, as the guardians expect voyagers to act honorably and respectfully while travelling upon their paths. Some of the most important mandates to keep in mind when interacting with dosojin and walking through their territories are as follows.
  • Mortals who respect the land and its laws shall know no harm.
  • Mortals who fail to show proper reverence for tradition shall not pass by a dosojin upon the first attempt.
  • Mortals who actively harm the natural world shall be cursed to wander it.
  • Mortals who stray from a dosojin’s path to do harm should not expect to find that path ever again.