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D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Púca

It’s time to get Celtic with Epic Monsters as we unpack that mischievous shapeshifting November-harvest-fairy-blasting prankster of northwestern Europe known as the púca!

Puca DnD 5e banner.jpg


The shapeshifting púca (also known as the pooka, phouka, pwca, or bucca) are bearers of fate hailing from Celtic mythologies all over northwestern Europe, bestowing bad luck or good fortune. Although they are able to assume human shapes these creatures never entirely lose their animal features when doing so (keeping donkey-like ears, a tail, and so on), otherwise taking the forms of common animals like cats, dogs, foxes, goats, horses, rabbits, ravens, and wolves (and “bogeyman”, goblin, or eagle), always with dark fur no matter the beast. Púca are also tied to agriculture through the Samhain, a Goidelic festival of the harvest, and said to bring rot and ruin to wild fruits at the start of each November (when anything not yet harvested becomes “puka” and therefore inedible), but the first day of that month is the only time they can be expected to behave kindly.

As might be expected they are fey (or at least very fey-like) and delight in pranks, such as offering someone a ride upon their back only to take off and buck the rider about—though it’s said that anyone wearing sharp spurs can control such a mischievous steed, though the creature won’t approach if it knows as much. Only the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, is said to have been able to ride one as a reliable mount (and did so with a bridle incorporating three púca tail hairs). A púca can be quite generous however, doing some of a farmer’s hard work and rewarding those who are kind to it in turn (including a drink that ensures happiness), or agree to guard something sacred. Of course it’s not all fun and games with these: some tales tell of bloodthirsty, vampiric púca that consume their victims, humans included, and others of a mountain and hill-dwelling creature doling out prophecies to those who seek it out.

Design Notes: Seems like we’ve got a shapeshifting nature prankster with a little bit of vampiric stuff going on and some divinatory powers to boot. It has some commonly taken beast forms but there’s no overwhelming push to hold them to that so its got a wider array available with Change Shape, and then some Innate Spellcasting to give it some insight on prophecies. Otherwise its killer speed and ability to negate provokes should make it excellent at kiting, drawing foes into chases where it can implement more mischief. Let’s do the numbers! The DMG lands flat on 3 and the Blog of Holding at 3.166, so by all accounts this fey is solidly at CR 3.

Púca

Medium fey, chaotic neutral
Armor Class 14
Hit Points 55 (10d8+10)
Speed 45 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
15 (+2)​
18 (+4)​
13 (+1)​
14 (+2)​
15 (+2)​
16 (+3)​
Saving Throws Str +4, Con +3, Int +4, Wis +4
Skills Insight +4, Perception +4, Stealth +8, Survival +4
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 14
Languages Common
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Change Shape. The púca magically polymorphs into a Tiny, Small, Medium, or Large beast of a CR no greater than its own, or back into its true form. Other than its size, its statistics are the same in each form. If the púca dies, it reverts to its true form.

Combat Footing. Whenever the púca makes a melee attack against a creature on its turn, it doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature until the end of its turn.

Innate Spellcasting. The púca’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma. The púca can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components:
Constant: speak with animals
At will: augury, detect magic, druidcraft, pass without trace
1/day each: commune with nature, goodberry
1/week each: divination, find the path


ACTIONS
Multiattack. The púca attacks once with its bite and twice with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d6+2) piercing damage. The púca regains hit points equal to the piercing damage taken.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) slashing damage.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

The puca was a canon AD&D monster in a book about the celts, if my memory doesn't fail.

With Changeling: the Dreaming I miss the puca as a PC race, something like the wester version of the hengeyokai.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The puca was a canon AD&D monster in a book about the celts, if my memory doesn't fail.

With Changeling: the Dreaming I miss the puca as a PC race, something like the wester version of the hengeyokai.
Iirc that form of Phooka had the habit of turning in to gold rings where they would wait for Adventurers to pick them up before changing into a Mule in the Adventurers arms.

@MikeMyler
I dont see any vampiric elements in the write up nor anything (like disengage) to suggest the Puca’s main combat action is “run away”
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
Iirc that form of Phooka had the habit of turning in to gold rings where they would wait for Adventurers to pick them up before changing into a Mule in the Adventurers arms.

@MikeMyler
I dont see any vampiric elements in the write up nor anything (like disengage) to suggest the Puca’s main combat action is “run away”
That'd be Combat Footing (aka mobility). Bites somebody, regains hit points from the bite, doesn't provoke opportunity attacks as it bounces away at a speed 50% higher than the average commoner.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
That'd be Combat Footing (aka mobility). Bites somebody, regains hit points from the bite, doesn't provoke opportunity attacks as it bounces away at a speed 50% higher than the average commoner.

Aah that explains it, I really need to take more time to study the connections :)
 


Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I've always assumed the Pooka is just a general fairy creature akin to a Goblin or Gnome, or an incorporeal undead in some other cases, or else a Satyr or Faun akin to Robin Goodfellow/Pan.

Puca/Bucca/Pooka/Pwca/Bogey/Bogart/Bog/Puck (Pan/Robin Goodfellow/Faunus).
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I've always assumed the Pooka is just a general fairy creature akin to a Goblin or Gnome, or an incorporeal undead in some other cases, or else a Satyr or Faun akin to Robin Goodfellow/Pan.

Puca/Bucca/Pooka/Pwca/Bogey/Bogart/Bog/Puck (Pan/Robin Goodfellow/Faunus).
Irish Puca are very specifically animal shapechangers, sometimes associated with storms, and one who likes to do mischief with mortals and is thus well known as a Trickster spirit. The term appears to be derived from the Irish Poic = Billy goat

The English Puck is in fact derived from early Germanic/Frisian Puk, who were household spirits. The word also appears to be cognate with the Norse Puki (nature spirit)

It was later, with the co-mingling of Celts, Vikings and Saxons in England that the Puca, the Puck and the Puki got mashed up into a single generic fairy - Indeed the word Pixie is a diminutive form of Puck
 
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