Megafauna

From PathfinderWiki
A giant frog pins stands on a humanoid skull.

In Golarion's ancient history, massive megafauna once roamed the continents, underground, and in the oceans. These colossal creatures shaped the world's ecosystems and landscapes. While they are less common today, megafauna still exist in areas where urbanization and intensive agriculture haven't taken hold. Megafauna comprise a diverse range of creatures, including amphibians, birds, dinosaurs, reptiles, mammals, and aquatic species, making their precise classification challenging. Generally, megafauna are large creatures, but can also encompass animals significantly larger than their mundane relatives.1

Origins

Megafauna naturally evolve during periods of abundance, driven by plentiful resources like food and territory. Larger herbivores often outsize carnivores due to resource availability. As they grow, they expand territories and migratory patterns, further enhancing resource access. Some believe megafauna were engineered underground in diverse ecosystems and then released on the surface. This theory is hotly debated, although none can argue that megafauna have been spotted in the deepest caves of Orv in the Darklands. Worshipers of Rovagug suggest megafauna are born from his blood, now disconnected from their master and needing awakening to their destructive potential.1

Ecology

A black scorpion flings camels in a desert.

The transition of species from what are generally perceived as "normally-sized animals" to megafauna involves behavioral and physiological changes. Increased size reduces adult predator threats, leading to longer lifespans and lower mortality. This results in lower birth rates and slower population growth. Larger herbivores promote the growth of carnivores and vermin. Megafauna travel longer distances, aiding in nutrient transportation between regions. They help prevent ecosystem collapses and alter their environment, transforming woodlands into open landscapes. Carnivorous megafauna affect prey behavior and populations.1

Humanoids benefit from teamwork when hunting and defending against large animals. Megafauna provide abundant resources for craft and construction, and when tamed, serve as mounts, war beasts, and beasts of burden, benefiting their handlers. Various humanoid races are skilled megafauna trainers. The most famous of these are the Kellids of the Realm of the Mammoth Lords1 and the orc dire wolf and smilodon riders of the Hold of Belkzen,2 but megafauna training is also part of the cultures of the iruxi, hobgoblins, and giants of all kinds.1

On Golarion

Megafauna once roamed across Golarion's lands and oceans, but now can generally only be found far from civilized society, including the following locations.1

Deep Tolguth

A giant centipede corners an armored humanoid.

Deep Tolguth, a vault in the Darklands' deepest region, harbors a thriving megafauna population. Its underground ecosystems include various megafauna like dinosaurs, large reptiles, enormous vermin, flightless birds, and herbivorous mammals. These creatures coexist with iruxi, orcs, and xulgaths in this subterranean expanse.1

Dretha's Cradle

In the icy Algid Wastes in the northern Hold of Belkzen, the orc alchemist Mother Chot alters megafauna into obedient war beasts, semi-organic war machines, or undead horrors. Belkzen beast masters collaborate with her, learning her fleshwarping techniques, and she's assisted by her intelligent fleshwarped creations.1

Earthnavel

The Earthnavel, an immense inverted ziggurat-like pit in the eastern Tusk Mountains, harbors ancient megafauna and spirits. Fossils found in the lower layers indicate that the megafauna here surpassed the size of today's surface-dwelling megafauna. A small crevice at the pit's base links to the Darklands, raising speculation that these tunnels once connected the Realm of the Mammoth Lords to Deep Tolguth, potentially serving as the path for megafauna's initial migration to Golarion's surface.1

Hold of Belkzen

In the Hold of Belkzen, orcs highly prize megafauna as mounts and for their strength in pulling war machines and other heavy loads. While wild megafauna no longer exist in Belkzen, orc raiding parties frequently venture into the Realm of the Mammoth Lords, crossing the Algid Wastes to hunt and capture megafauna. Among these orc groups, members of the Ice Tooth tribe are particularly dedicated, although the Blood Fur and Gore Tusk tribes have emerged as strong rivals in recent years.1

Islands

Numerous islands along the coasts of Garund (and especially the Shackles) have small populations of megafauna. Two examples of this are Mediogalti Island (home of the Red Mantis) and Ungoro Tedar. In the latter location, the megafauna do not live on the surface, but in enormous underground caverns.1

Mwangi Expanse

A tyrannosaurus pursues humanoids in a canoe.

Megafauna can be found throughout the jungles, savannahs, and swamps of the Mwangi Expanse and come in numerous varieties including dinosaurs, crocodilians, felines, and primates. Even though the land is populated by numerous humanoid species, most have a comparatively small ecological footprint as they practice nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles or live in small communities. This has given megafauna the space to survive until the present.1

Nagajor

The watery jungles of Nagajor in Tian Xia are home to giant amphibians, reptiles, and insects. While the titanoboas and giant crocodiles are apex predators, megalanias, giant frogs, and giant leeches are further down the food chain.1

Pit of Gormuz

The edges of the Pit of Gormuz in Casmaron (where the Rough Beast is imprisoned) are home to numerous, particularly violent species of carnivorous megafauna. Locals speculate that their anger comes from living so close to Rovagug's rage.1

Realm of the Mammoth Lords

Megafauna are more abundant in the Realm of the Mammoth Lords than anywhere else on Golarion. The Kellids here have learned to live alongside these great creatures on their own terms, maintaining a careful balance between hunting and taming them and letting them roam about of their own volition. Some of the more common megafauna found here include cave bears, smilodons, and wooly mammoths, which are trained as mounts, war beasts, and pets.1

Southern Garund

Dinosaurs are known to be domesticated for travel and labor in the nations of Droon and Holomog in southern Garund. Megafauna reptiles and dinosaurs can also be encountered in the wild in the less-inhabited sections of these nations.1

Thunder Steppes

The Thunder Steppes, located between the Realm of the Mammoth Lords and Sarkoris, are inhabited by malevolent megafauna influenced by the demonic corruption of the Worldwound. These creatures exhibit not just aggressiveness, but malicious intent, with some herd animals even preying on passing humanoids. Opinions on the Thunder Steppes' future vary: some argue for healing and cleansing the land through ritual and rewilding, while others believe it's too perilous and propose culling the creatures and reclaiming the land.1

Tolguth

Located in the far north near the Crown of the World, the settlement of Tolguth sits in a valley heated by volcanic vents. It is home to numerous species of megafauna including duck-billed dinosaurs, sauropods, tyrannosauruses, and terror birds. The people of Tolguth need frequent protection from the predatory megafauna, hiring heroes to hunt them, fetch supplies, or simply to lure them away.1

Valashmai Jungle

Megafauna live in large numbers in the swamps and vocanic mountains of the Valashmai Jungle in southern Tian Xia, but are dwarfed by the unique, semi-intelligent gargantuan beasts known as kaiju who make their home there as well.1

Varisia

During ancient Thassilon, megafauna were captured and tamed for various purposes, akin to how the Thassilonian empire enslaved local giant and humanoid populations. After Thassilon's fall, the largest megafauna either died or fled, while moderately sized ones, primarily giant animals, adapted to new niches. Today, giant animals often conflict with humanoid settlements in the lowlands, while megafauna, including aurochs, sand worms, and rhinoceros-like herbivores, reside on the Storval Plateau, coexisting with the displaced Shoanti people due to foreign intrusion and urbanization.1

Oceans, lakes, and rivers

A tylosaurus attempts to swallow a shark whole.

Most species of Golarion's megafauna live in its oceans, lakes, and rivers, where they only occasionally interact with land-based populations. Aquatic peoples and those who live at the coast or near major rivers see them in much greater numbers. Marine megafauna include giant crabs, whales, giant squid, or giant turtles mistaken for islands, and numerous aquatic species have learned to tame them.1

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 Jessica Catalan. “Megafauna” in Lost Mammoth Valley, 69–72. Paizo Inc., 2022
  2. Logan Bonner, et al. “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary, 256. Paizo Inc., 2019