Black Panther

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Climate/Terrain:Temperate to tropical forests
Activity Cycle:Night
Intelligence:Very (11-12)
Alignment:Neutral evil
No. Appearing:1
Armor Class:4
Hit Dice:5+5
No. of Attacks:3
Special Attacks:Rake
Special Defenses:Never surprised
Magic Resistance:Nil
Size:M (4-4½' long)
Morale:Elite (13)
XP Value:1,400

The black panther, also known as the shadow cat, is a deadly feline predator made of shadowstuff rather than living flesh. Though similar in some respects to ordinary great cats, the black panther is very intelligent and an insidious foe.

To the untrained eyes, a black panther might be mistaken for an ordinary black “panther” - actually a variety of leopard with a black coat - such as those found in the Valachan wilds. The creature is a bit sleeker than its mundane kin, however, having a build closer to that of a cheetah than a leopard. The black panther's teeth and claws a pearly gray in color, and its dark eyes flicker like black flames.

Black panthers are incapable of speech, but can understand humanoid tongues easily.

Combat: Black panthers engage opponents as most great cats are prone to do, stalking their prey and then pouncing with great savagery. A black panther can attack with both of its front claws and its bite in a single round, inflicting 1d3 and 1d8 points of damage respectively. If both of its front claws hit a victim in a single round, the creature can rake with both of its rear claws for 1d3 damage each. Black panthers are capable of nearly supernatural feats of agility in combat, being able to leap twenty feet straight up and fifty feet forward or backwards.

Black panthers are 80% undetectable in all but the brightest light, and are considered invisible when motionless in any conditions darker than torchlight. Their movements are utterly silent, and they impose a -4 penalty to opponents' surprise rolls. A black panther itself cannot be surprised. Although appearances might suggest otherwise, black panthers are not truly living creatures and are therefore immune to life-based spells and effects. Similarly, they are unharmed by suffocation, disease or poison.

At will, a black panther can dissolve into a pool of inky, seemingly liquid darkness. This process is instantaneous, and can even be accomplished after a black panther has attacked. Similarly, reforming is instantaneous. A black panther cannot, however, dissolve and reform in the same round. In this darkness form, the black panther is immune to all attacks and spells, though it cannot enter the area of effect of any light spell. The pool can slither about at a movement rate of 36. It is capable of moving across any surface, including walls, ceilings, and the surface of a body of water, and can seep through the tiniest of cracks. Typically, a black panther uses this ability to attack, dissolve, slither behind a victim and then reform and attack in the next round. It will also use this ability to escape combat if it is severely wounded. Unlike a vampire, it cannot assume this special form automatically if reduced to zero hit points, and is destroyed as normal under such circumstances.

Habitat/Society: Black panthers are thought to have originated on the Demiplane of Shadow. Though this assumption is certainly understandable, it is not clear how they came to occur in the Demiplane of Dread. They may have entered the Land of Mists through the Shadow Rift along with many other creatures of darkness. Certainly, they are found in that fey land in significant numbers, but this may simply indicate a preference for its tenebrous environment. Elsewhere, they stick to dark forests and other shadowy areas, preferring regions where game and intelligent creatures are plentiful. They seem to favor the woods of Valachan in particular.

Black panthers behave as one might expect a supernatural, intelligent feline to behave. They are vain, fastidious, cunning and hedonistic. Though thoroughly evil, they enjoy attention and play. Like tigers, they are solitary unless a female is encountered with cubs. In the wild, two black panthers will attack one another unless prepared to mate. If kept together in captivity, however, a group of black panthers will rarely fight violently, instead competing for attention and accolades from their master.

It is not unusual for powerful evil creatures to keep black panthers as guardians or companions. Vampires, weretigers, paka and the shee of the Shadow Rift are all known to keep the creatures. However, a master best remain aware of his “pet's” intelligence and evil nature. Black panthers are loyal and affectionate to those who keep them well-groomed and well-fed, and treat them respectfully. They can become vicious and even vengeful if they do not feel properly spoiled, however.

Ecology: Though supernatural in nature, black panthers interact with their surroundings as most great cats do. They are high-order carnivores, preying primarily upon mammals. Unlike mundane cats, they are man-eaters by nature, relishing intelligent prey. Black panther cubs are highly sought by evil creatures of all kinds, and the carcass of a black panther can fetch quite a sum from a wizard, particularly a shadow mage.

The Lonesome Road