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Psychopomp

Source Bestiary 4 pg. 217
All life has its beginning and its end. From the moment of birth, everything that shrieks and struggles upon the Material Plane crawls toward a singular finale, that fatal climax that grants passage into the unimaginable infinities of the afterlife. As the spirits of the deceased flow from the confusion of mortality to their ultimate fates, they are each judged by the gods of death, who assure that all who die reach their prescribed afterlife. Yet with all the worlds of the Material Plane, the countless faces and exceptions of mortality, and all those who would turn fate and finality to their own devices, death as a system and institution requires more agents than a single deity or pantheon to uphold. These agents are the psychopomps—denizens of Purgatory and the dispassionate stewards, chroniclers, and guides of all that die.

Psychopomps preside over the flow of life. Their primary concerns focus upon souls in the vulnerable transition between death and their final destinations upon the planes. Psychopomps carry out their duties with the dispassion of veterans and cynics. In terms of service measuring in ages, psychopomps meet countless souls from innumerable worlds, and soon nearly every story, fate, plea, and exception becomes all too familiar. They care little for the histories or personalities of the souls that pass them by, concerned only for the efficient and unvaried processing of each spirit to its final unremarkable eternity. Damnation and paradise are the same to them, as are heroes and villains, and no psychopomp cares one jot for great deeds left undone, other fates hanging in the balance, or bribes worth even a world’s ransom. But while drudgery is the lot of many psychopomps—interrupted only by the diversions they sometimes create for themselves—their system is not without flaws. There are creatures who would seek to deny the natural order of death—fiends that prey upon souls, spirits lost in their migration, and undead abominations. To counter such abnormalities and preserve the flow of souls as the multiverse requires, numerous specialized psychopomps exist to protect the dead and counter any who would seek to pervert the state of death to their own ends.

Noteworthy among psychopomps are their masks. Many who have dealings with the living wear some manner of grim face covering or funerary mask. While these masks are not part of a psychopomp’s body and grant them no special abilities, the legends of numerous cultures suggest that for a living creature to see a psychopomp’s unmasked countenance invites a premature death. Those psychopomps who deal predominately with the dead typically eschew such marks of station except as a formality.

As psychopomps help convey souls to all of the Outer Planes, and thus provide petitioners equally to each of those realms, they enjoy a special status among many planar races as respected neutrals. As such, most other planar races grant them a wide berth, with even archons and demons going out of their ways to avoid interfering with death’s emissaries. Soul-hungry daemons and reality-violating qlippoth are among the only races that actively oppose psychopomps. Consequently, the deadlier classes of psychopomps watch for and hunt disruptive members of these races, seeking to expunge the paths between the planes of any that would impede the certain cycle of death.

The death gods create the weakest psychopomps out of mortal souls, usually those who served Purgatory in life or worshiped deities of judgment. The gods may transform psychopomps which perform exemplary service into greater members of their kind, though rarely an exceptional hero or champion of Purgatory may become a superior psychopomp when she dies. There is little competitiveness or jealousy among the ranks of these creatures, as their primary motivation is fulfillment of their eternal duties, and there is little point in coveting another’s rewards and responsibilities.

The following are the most common types of psychopomps. Other varieties exist, tasked with more obscure duties for the gods of death, or responsible for alien worlds where the native creatures have radically different life cycles and outlooks compared to humanoids.

Psychopomp Ushers

Beings ancient and dispassionate rise above the psychopomp droves, emissaries of death who have presided over the dooms of whole nations, races, and worlds. These eldest and most efficient servants of death hold great respect for the gods of death, but are not necessarily their minions, striving to fulfill their own visions of death’s ultimate purpose and process over all other objectives.

Atropos the Last Sister
Barzahk the Passage
Ceyanan the Shepherd
Dammar the Denied
Imot the Symbol of Doom
Mother Vulture
Mrtyu, Death’s Consort
Narakaas the Cleansing Sentence
The Pale Horse
Phlegyas, Consoler of Atheists
Saloc, Minder of Immortals
Teshallas the Primordial Poison
Vale the Court of Ancestors

Members

Ahmuuth (CR 4), Algea (CR 11), Calaca (CR 8), Catrina (CR 5), Ember Weaver (CR 8), Esobok (CR 3), Fulgati (CR 18), Kere (CR 10), Memitim (CR 15), Morbai (CR 6), Morrigna (CR 13), Nosoi (CR 2), Olethros (CR 17), Shoki (CR 9), Vanth (CR 7), Viduus (CR 4), Yamaraj (CR 20)