Expanded monster lore: The Basilisk


First Post
Hi guys,

I'll soon be running a E6 low magic, low fantasy game in a homebrew fictional setting heavily inspired by real life earth from the 10th century. The idea behind this setting is to recreate a world much like ours, but in which classical middle-age legends like dragons and faeries were actually true. This specific campaign is set on region called Falheim, which is based upon real life Scandinavia, so the game will have a Viking theme, something like the 13th warrior movie with a little bit of fantasy added to it.

I believe that in this sort of game it is possible for characters to have encounters with magical or otherworldly creatures, but such encounters should be rare and always memorable.

One such encounter I have planned for this campaign is the hunting of a basilisk that lives in a burial mound where a ancient king was buried. The characters will (hopefully) want/need to visit this tomb and therefore meet the basilisk that now inhabits the place. In order to avoid making this encounter a simple hack and slash combat, I decided to delve a little into the ecology of the basilisk and make this encounter with a fantastical creature as interesting as possible.

I did a little research about the basilisk and its history (nothing fancy, just internet and encyclopedias mostly) to improve my knowledge about this creature and created a place for it in my world. I made a list of information that could be gathered about the basilisk via different knowledge checks (some true, some false), based on real life assumptions about it and added a few of my own.

In terms of game stats, I basically used those found in the Pathfinder SRD and made small changes based on other bits of information I found on my research. I added a poison to its bite since most medieval descriptions of the creature mention it and changed its selection of feats to better represent its fighting behavior.

Anyway, this is what I came up with. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it and any feedback or criticism is appreciated.

XP 1,600
N Medium magical beast
Init –1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +10
AC 18, touch 9, flat-footed 17 (–1 Dex, +8 natural, +1 Dodge)
hp 52 (7d10+14)
Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +3
Speed 20 ft.
Melee bite +10 (1d8+4), plus poison
Special Attacks gaze, poison
Str 16, Dex 8, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 13, Cha 11
Base Atk +7; CMB +10 (+12 trip); CMD 19 (33 vs. trip)
Feats Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Improved Trip
Skills Perception +10, Stealth +10; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth
Gaze (Ex)
Turn to stone permanently (as flesh to stone), range 30 feet, Fortitude DC 15 negates. A creature petrified in this matter that is then coated (not just splashed) with fresh basilisk poison (taken from a basilisk no more than 1 hour dead) is instantly restored to flesh. A single basilisk contains enough poison to coat 1d3 Medium creatures in this manner. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Poison (Ex)
Bite - injury; save Fort DC 15; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1 Dex; cure 2 saves


Very little is known about the appearance of this foul creature, for few have survived an encounter with such a terrible beast. It is believed, however, that the basilisk is an eight-legged reptile, measuring up to 13 feet long and weighing 300 pounds. It has a very long tail and small crests of bony growths like crowns, which explain the origin of its name ("King of Serpents"). Folklore states that basilisks are hatched from eggs laid by snakes and incubated by a lizard.

Basilisks can live in nearly any terrestrial environment, from forests to deserts, and the color of their hide and scales tend to match that of his surroundings. Desert dwelling basilisks might be tan or brown, while forest ones will probably have bright green colors. Since they are not homothermic creatures, basilisks usually live in caves, burrows or other sheltered areas, with easy access to water and small animals to prey upon. Such dens are littered with petrified forms of animals (even humans) in lifelike poses - the petrified remains of the basilisk's meals.

It is believed that a basilisk can turn a living creature to stone with its gaze. It is also said that they are poisonous. Some legends refer to an "air of corruption" around the creature. Plinius the Elder wrote that the basilisk "leaves a wide trail of deadly venom in its wake, and its gaze is likewise lethal". The same author gives a detailed (but probably highly exaggerated) description of the creature: "When it hisses, all the other serpents fly from it: and it does not advance its body, like the others, by a succession of folds, but moves along upright and erect upon the middle. It destroys all shrubs, not only by its contact, but those even that it has breathed upon; it burns up all the grass too, and breaks the stones, so tremendous is its noxious influence. It was formerly a general belief that if a man on horseback killed one of these animals with a spear, the poison would run up the weapon and kill, not only the rider, but the horse as well".

A basilisk's diet consists of small mammals, birds and reptiles, but they can eat shrubs and other plants or even stone if needed. It has the ability to consume the creatures it petrifies, as their crunching stomach acid can dissolve and extract nutrients from stone, but the process is very slow and inefficient, making them lazy and sluggish. When hunting, basilisks strike from hiding spots, returning to a safe place after each attack. It usually counts on its poison or petrifying gaze to kill its victims, and rarely stalks victims who resist its gaze attack, save to protect its nest.

The basilisk is also a common subject in the studies of alchemy. Some tomes include it in the family of the salamanders, which symbolize the destructive fire that preceded the transmutation of metals. Others associate the basilisk with the acquisition of wealth. Theophilus of Prestburg, for example, mentions a recipe for turning the basilisks ashes into copper.

The most feared enemy of the basilisk is the weasel. Apparently, weasels and ferrets are immune to its gaze, and they are known to sneak into basilisks lairs to eat their eggs or newly born. The rooster and its crow are also considered deadly do the basilisk. According to Plinius the Elder's tome "Naturalis historia", "to this dreadful monster the crow of a rooster is fatal, a thing that has been tried with success, for kings have often desired to see its body when killed; so true is it that it has pleased Nature that there should be nothing without its antidote. The animal is thrown into the hole of the basilisk, which is easily known from the soil around it being infected. The weasel destroys the basilisk by its odor, but dies itself in this struggle of nature against its own self".

Knowledge Arcana

DC 10 - Father Maltus' "Servants of the Adversary" states that: "a basilisk is a hideous creature that resembles a rooster, with bat-like wings and a lashing tail" (False: this is the description of the cockatrice).

DC 15 - Doran the White's bestiary describes the basilisk as an "an eight-legged reptilian creature that can turn creatures to stone with its gaze".

DC 20 - Many sources agree that the basilisk's bite is poisonous. Curiously, its poison, while still fresh, can turn recently petrified victims back to normal.

DC 25 - Obscure alchemy tomes suggest that the poison of the basilisk can be conserved and stored by alchemical means and, although not as powerful in this state, it can be used in stone to flesh rituals.

Knowledge Dungeoneering

DC 10 - Basilisks are eight-legged lizards that live in underground tunnels.

DC 15 - Basilisks can turn its prey to stone with a glance. Explorers report that a basilisk lair is often filled with small petrified animals.

DC 20 - Basilisks are not very fast, but they can either walk above ground or burrow underground. Their lairs contain small caves and holes. (Partially false: basilisks have no burrow speed, though they do dig caves and holes in their lair).

DC 25 - Alfonso Domingo's traveling diaries mention that basilisks employ hit and run tactics. They remain hidden in their holes and come out quickly to strike and then return to a safe hole. They count on their poisonous bite and petrifying gaze to kill their victims.

Knowledge Nature

DC 10 - A basilisk is an eight-legged reptilian creature that can turn creatures to stone with its gaze.

DC 15 - Basilisks are poisonous. According to Denarian folklore, its poison is so nasty that even indirect contact is enough to kill a person, such as holding a sword that hurts a basilisk. (Partially false: only its bite is poisonous, indirect contact with its poison produces no effect).

DC 20 - Plinius the Elder states in his "Naturalis historia" that "weasels are excellent basilisk hunters and the creature fears their odor". They are immune to the basilisk's petrifying gaze and often sneak into basilisks lairs to eat their eggs. (Partially false: weasels are not immune to the petrifying gaze, but they use their scent ability to hunt with their eyes closed. Having a weasel nearby grants a +2 bonus on perception and survival checks to spot or track basilisks).

DC 25 - A basilisk usual prey includes small mammals, birds, reptiles and similar creatures which it waits to ambush, turn to stone, and then eats at its leisure. They are omnivorous and able to consume their petrified victims, a sign that often indicates a nearby lair.

Knowledge History

DC 10 - It is said that the first basilisk hatched from eggs laid by snakes and incubated by a lizard. A basilisk can turn people to stone with its gaze.

DC 15 - Ronald Arkwood, King of the Helveti tribe, killed a basilisk with the crow of a rooster (false).

DC 20 - The saga of Edmund Giantsbane tells that Edmund's father, Sigfried, blinded a basilisk with a spear before killing it.

DC 25 - In the halls of the far north, bards sing the ballad of Lucien and Hermes, in which Lucien of Arcadia was kidnapped and put in a cell guarded by a basilisk. Her lover Hermes killed the beast with its own gaze, reflected in a silver mirror. (False: the guardian in the original story was actually a medusa. Basilisks are not affected by the reflection of their own gaze).


DC 15 - Bearing the fangs of a poisonous snake on a necklace or armband makes a person immune to the basilisk's poison (false).

DC 20 - Eating the raw heart of a rooster can protect a person from the petrifying gaze of a basilisk (+2 bonus on fortitude saves vs. paralysis for one hour).

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First Post
Very nice work - embedding fantastical monster in your game world's mythology should make any encounter with them more memorable, especially if some research can be done beforehand.

My concern doesn't adress your background, but the actual mechanics of the fight itself. I.e., CR 5, AC 18, HP 52. Any half-competent 3rd or 4th level party can simply hack your Basilisk to pieces in a couple rounds. Short fights against single monsters are rarely what you'd call epic. What might make this memorable is if a PC gets petrified - but unless the party has researched how to cure him/her, that doesn't make the petrification event especially fun. Nor will the encounter remain at all memorable if any petrification that does occur is instantly cured after the beast is dead.

I'd change a few things for these reasons. I'd simply double the Basilisk's HP and change the way its gaze works: on a failed save, you take 2 points Con damage and are dazed for a round. In the next round, you must roll another save, and if you fail, you take 2 points Con drain and are paralyzed for a round. Only on a third failed save, which you roll in the following round, do you actually get petrified. Make sure there's a way to research halfway decently how this works. You wouldn't even need to change the monster's CR with these changes, IMO.

Another thing concerning your feat selection: with 20' move, the Spring Attack chain is all but useless. I'd rather go for Improved Initiative, Iron Will, and Improved Iron Will, to protect your weak-willed beastie against save-or-suck effects the party might employ. Improved Trip usually needs Combat Expertise as a prereq (which your basilisk doesn't qualify for), so maybe make it a bonus feat? Or just replace it with Power Attack.

A final consideration: the Cockatrice seems based on the mythical basilisk as much as the monster that actually bears its name, have you considered basing your monster on that?


How much supernatural are you going for?

You could make the basilisk non-magical; it this case, the mythical tales are simply exaggerations.

The basilisk could be a cousin of the Komodo dragon. Komodos are ambush predators - generally lethargic of pace, but exceptionally fast when striking. Its "Petrification" could be the result of its bite (a nerve toxin that paralyzes victims and eventually kills if not countered) or an enhanced sort of "bird terror" that the presence of some serpents inflict on birds (the victim becoming so awestruck by fear it can't move) - either pheromone induced or some sort of quasi-supernatural hypnotic ability.

Even if you don't go with the non-supernatural aspects, I think you could use the ambush aspects to change the encounter up and strike fear into the party; burrowed holes weaving through the tomb where it can make pop-up attacks (bite & retreat) and retreat in the face of a counter-attack; coming into the view of a lone PC, petrifying them and then slinking out of sight before other PCs can locate it or realize what's going on; leaving trails or pools of venom in areas that can't be avoided (or regurgitating treasure encoated with venom to sicken/pick off greedy victims).

PS: I think Spring Attack would work best with it's gaze; move up 20', active gaze at PC within 30', retreat 20'.
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First Post
Hi Guys. First of all, thanks for the tips.

I'm not too worried about the basilisk not being a challenge for the party. I expect the party to be 2nd or 3rd level when they encounter it, and I should also mention that this is going to be a low-magic, low-powered party for Pathfinder standards and will probably have no spellcasters, something that increases the challenge all by itself. Even so, I will definitively pay attention to that and upgrade the basilisk accordingly if I feel it's not a real threat.

I loved the idea of turning the petrification effect into a gradual thing. I'm not a fan of save or die effects and this could add a lot of tension to the encounter.

Stormonu understood why I chose the spring attack feat line for the basilisk. Its lair is basically a long and narrow corridor filled with holes on the ground and along the walls, big enough for the basilisk to crawl through but not big enough to fit humans. During a fight, the basilisk would probably come out of one of these holes, move 10ft., use its gaze and bite attack, then move another 10ft, back into that hole or into another one. These holes are interconnected, so the basilisk could enter a hole and come out through another. This hit and run tactics will probably drive my players crazy and force them to devise a counter strategy that goes beyond plain and simple hack and slash, something I always strive for in my games.

Also loved Stormonu's idea of demystifying the basilisk and turning it into a regular animal. I guess the characters will never known the truth until they face the beast :)


The EN World kitten
Guilberwood, apologies for the threadjack, but have you looked at The Bestiary: Predators, from Betabunny Publishing?

It's a 3.5 product, but it greatly expands on the listed animals for 3.X/Pathfinder, offering not only a huge array of stat blocks, but also things like their tracks, habitat, how edible they are, ho wmuch money their bodies/pelts are worth, etc. It also has excerpts from the medieval Bestiary by Pliny the Elder regarding what these animals were believed to do or be capable of, and even stats for cryptids - the animals that have never been conclusively proven to exist, but are popular myths. I think it'd be exceptionally useful for the game you're running.


My first thought is that if this is a "Viking-themed" Scandinavian set Fabulous European campaign, it'd be unlikely to have a Basilisk lurking in a burial mound. Some kind of dragon or undead would seem a much more traditional Viking grave mound monster.

Then again a European bestiary style Basilisk is very different to a D&D Basilisk - it's a Tiny snake, not an eight-legged lizard the size of a crocodile.

Hmm, although a D&D Basilisk could work pretty well as a smallish "dragon". Just have the locals call it the "eight legged worm" or somesuch, and speak of how it's so poisonous it can strike a man dead by looking at them. It may be a Magical Beast rather than a Dragon, but it's not like character's can see a creature's type hovering above its head.


First Post
Spring Attack doesn't work that way: you may only move a total of your speed, adding the distance moved before and after attacking (so 20' in total, or: move 10', attack move back 10'). Also, you can't do anything but a melee attack in between movement, so no active gaze. You're free to change this, of course, but then it's a special basilisk ability anyway and you don't need to waste three feats on it...
But even if you do change it, moving a paltry 20', gazing actively, and moving back won't enable the beastie to do hit-and-run. Not at 20' speed. Even the max distance (50') is easily within a double move of most PCs - or, if there's a straight line, within charging range...


Shot on the Run could replace Spring Attack - you'd need a different feat chain [unless you give it as a bonus feat], but overall, I say damn the rules and go with what's cool.

And it will work if the baskilisk is advancing/retreating from one of it's holes - which may be some 3' round at best. PCs will either have to crawl in after it, use ranged weapons or poke pole arms down the holes...blindly, unless they really want to take a peek if they can reach the beasty...

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