D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Wendigo

Winter has Epic Monsters in its icy grip with a deadly spirit of the cold: the wendigo!

Wendigo DnD 5E BANNER.jpg

The wendigo is in the running for the Many Names Dash—it is also known as the wīhtikow, wetiko, wiindigoo, weendigo, windego, wiindgoo, windgo, windago, windiga, wendego, windagoo, widjigo, wiijigoo, wijigo, weejigo, wìdjigò, wintigo, wentigo, wehndigo, wentiko, windgoe, wītikō, and wintsigo, sometimes pluralized as windigoag, windegoag, wiindigooag, or windikouk. This malevolent spirit comes from the folklore and traditions of people among the First Nations (including the Assiniboine, Cree, Innu, Naskapi, Ojibwe, and Saulteaux) in what is today eastern Canada, the Great Plains regions of the United States, and around the Great Lakes in both countries. It does not have horns, nor is it a hybrid animal beast like a lycanthrope—that’s all Hollywood and Europeans.

The wendigo (which notably also has a potent stench and destroys the environment around it) possesses people, making them into enormous cannibals that ignore the cold. Sometimes greed itself is enough to make someone a wendigo, as is being in proximity to one of them for too long (after all depending on the legend, if you are not fat enough you may not make a suitable meal.) Otherwise a wendigo’s possessed victim is instilled with avarice and murderous intent, their hunger for flesh growing as they become larger with each person they eat. There are protections from the dangers of the wendigo, however; the wiindigookaanzhimowin ceremony (which involved dancing around a drum and mask wearing) was performed during famines to ward against the wendigo and reinforce the taboos regarding it, and the Cree had a belief that animal grease and fat could reverse the wendigo process (which caused the vomiting of ice).

Finally we should note the “wendigo psychosis”, a historical affliction with symptoms including an intense craving for human flesh and fear of becoming a cannibal. Though there are a number of documented cases where people turn to cannibalism earlier than one might expect that get attributed to this phenomenon, none of them have been clinically studied and it is largely discounted by modern psychology.

Design Notes: A smelly spirit which makes people into ice giants that are crazy for people—way cooler than the horned beast monster usually depicted in movies and the like! We’re starting with a ghost, though there’s no precedent for the wendigo doing a lot of the 5E ghostly things so those are getting cut right out. After that we need to figure on how this creature manipulates the world around it; some divination spells and cantrips ought to cover the gamut there, and we’ll throw in invisibility and suggestion to give it some traction in play (though only just enough to give it a little bit of traction, we want it relying on Possession). Speaking of Possession, we probably ought to rename it because a lot of it is changing along with the humanoid housing the wendigo: they need to be bigger, and icy, and great at eating people. We can tie in the destruction of the environment with Defiler (which it can do whenever, but it seems especially cool for it to be during a possession), and clear up a lot of the spirit situation with Miasma Form (itself a curated Mist Form from the vampire’s statblock). Let’s do the numbers! With no true attack of its own and borrowing much of its statistics from its victims, we’re out in the proverbial cold here and the judgment has to be about what level of party can handle this thing. Thinking from that angle we’ll go with CR 6, though adventurers with only martial capabilities will be in for a really tough encounter.

Wendigo

Medium undead, chaotic evil
Armor Class 12
Hit Points 45 (10d8)
Speed 0 ft., fly 20 ft. (hover)
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
8 (–1)​
15 (+2)​
15 (+2)​
14 (+2)​
13 (+1)​
16 (+3)​
Proficiency +3
Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, stunned
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Algonquian, telepathy 40 ft.
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Defiler. When the wendigo innately casts a spell it can choose to defile the land in a 5-foot radius around it, leaving decay in its wake. While possessing a creature, if the wendigo cannot use this trait it is unable to innately cast spells. A barren patch of land (without any vegetation) cannot be defiled.

Incorporeal Movement. The wendigo can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

Innate Spellcasting. The wendigo’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14). The wendigo can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components:
At will: locate animals or plants, locate creature, mage hand, minor illusion
3/day: invisibility, suggestion

Miasma Form. While in its true form the wendigo can innately cast spells and use Icy Possession, but otherwise it can’t take any action, speak, or manipulate objects. It is weightless, has a flying speed of 20 feet, can hover, and can enter a hostile creature’s space and stop there. In addition, if air can pass through a space, the miasma can do so without squeezing, and it can’t pass through water.

Stench. Any creature that starts its turn within 10 feet of the wendigo must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned until the start of its next turn. On a successful saving throw, the creature is immune to the wendigo’s Stench for 24 hours.


ACTIONS
Bite (While Possessing Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +2, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (2d8–1) piercing damage plus 9 (2d8) psychic damage.

Icy Possession (Recharge 6). One humanoid that the wendigo can see within 5 feet of it must succeed on a DC 14 Charisma saving throw or be possessed by the wendigo; the wendigo then disappears, and the target is incapacitated and loses control of its body. The wendigo now controls the body but doesn't deprive the target of awareness. The wendigo can't be targeted by any attack, spell, or other effect, except ones that turn undead, and it retains its alignment, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, immunity to being charmed and frightened, Defiler, Innate Spellcasting, and Stench traits. It otherwise uses the possessed target's statistics.
In addition, the target’s form enlarges and changes in the following ways:
  • The target’s skin stretches taut, its eyes sink into its skull, and the ends of its bones nearly protrude from its body, increasing its size by one category (up to Large size, as the enlarge/reduce spell).
  • The target gains immunity to cold and poison damage, and the poisoned condition.
  • The target gains the wendigo’s bite attack, using the target’s Strength score for attack and damage rolls.
  • The target gains advantage on checks made to grapple.
The possession lasts until the body drops to 0 hit points, the wendigo ends it as a bonus action, or the wendigo is turned or forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When the possession ends, the wendigo reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the body. The target is immune to this wendigo's Icy Possession for 24 hours after succeeding on the saving throw or after the possession ends.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
You mean Ithaqua is entirely a Lovecraft creation? I always like the idea of the skeletal giant that comes on the arctic winds bringing terror and insanity. CR 6 just seems a bit piddling…
 


dave2008

Legend
You mean Ithaqua is entirely a Lovecraft creation? I always like the idea of the skeletal giant that comes on the arctic winds bringing terror and insanity. CR 6 just seems a bit piddling…
Yes, this seems more like a minion of the true Wendigo. But it is really interesting. Thank you for sharing @Mike Myler !
 

dave2008

Legend
Mike, rather than relying on another creature's stat block it might make sense to just give it two forms: miasma form and wendigo form. Something like we have for a werewolf or vampire. Then it can all be in one statblock and DMs don't have to fiddle around with making a new statblock every time it possess someone. Instead, the possessed is transformed into the wendigo form.

PS This would also allow you to calculate a true CR.
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
Calculating CR or being really dangerous/terrifying wasn't my goal here—it was to make the wendigo as the legend is, at least as far as I can tell. That's not like, a dude out there (horned or not) goring and eating people, it's a spirit that possesses people and makes them into a horrible monster (and importantly an allegory which loses a lot of meaning if you just make it a purely physical threat running about in the wilderness). We got ice monsters aplenty (there's an entire EN5ider article I did of only ice monsters). Now we got a (I maintain more) legit wendigo. :)
 

If you haven't seen the movie Ravenous yet, I thoroughly recommend it. This write up brought it immediately to mind. 19th century US troopers on the frontier, starvation leads to cannibalism, the cannibal grows in strength..... it also has some f**king funny moments, too. Stars Guy Pierce, Robert Carlyle, Jeffery Jones and a few other familiar faces. Maybe not everyones cup of tea but it dovetails with the Wendigo myth (without ever mentioning it that I can remember) nicely.
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
If you haven't seen the movie Ravenous yet, I thoroughly recommend it. This write up brought it immediately to mind. 19th century US troopers on the frontier, starvation leads to cannibalism, the cannibal grows in strength..... it also has some f**king funny moments, too. Stars Guy Pierce, Robert Carlyle, Jeffery Jones and a few other familiar faces. Maybe not everyones cup of tea but it dovetails with the Wendigo myth (without ever mentioning it that I can remember) nicely.
web search and this popped up and I'm sold
1643719239335.png
 

Calculating CR or being really dangerous/terrifying wasn't my goal here—it was to make the wendigo as the legend is, at least as far as I can tell. That's not like, a dude out there (horned or not) goring and eating people, it's a spirit that possesses people and makes them into a horrible monster (and importantly an allegory which loses a lot of meaning if you just make it a purely physical threat running about in the wilderness). We got ice monsters aplenty (there's an entire EN5ider article I did of only ice monsters). Now we got a (I maintain more) legit wendigo. :)
Ok I guess, but it seems that you could maintain that with Dave’s suggestion and stay completely on theme. And make it easier for DM’s to use too.
 



You mean Ithaqua is entirely a Lovecraft creation? I always like the idea of the skeletal giant that comes on the arctic winds bringing terror and insanity. CR 6 just seems a bit piddling…
Interestingly, I’m pretty sure the Wendigo is also called giwakwa ( spelling?) in upper New England.
And is an ice demon, frozen and starved, eating its own lips, thin as a rail, ever hungry. His heart is a figure made of ice and is in the shape of a human being. His soul is dead, the spirit of a bad shaman who turned away from his tribe. He stalks the woods, looking for victims to drive mad or devour. His scream alone is enough to kill a man.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Interestingly, I’m pretty sure the Wendigo is also called giwakwa ( spelling?) in upper New England.
And is an ice demon, frozen and starved, eating its own lips, thin as a rail, ever hungry. His heart is a figure made of ice and is in the shape of a human being. His soul is dead, the spirit of a bad shaman who turned away from his tribe. He stalks the woods, looking for victims to drive mad or devour. His scream alone is enough to kill a man.
Ae, thats seems much more likely to be the inspiration of Ithaqua. Hmmm I wonder if its a case of two different legends being merged over the centuries so that Wendigo and Giwakwa eventually get confused with each other.
maybe Mr Myler might even be so kind as to add Giwakwa to the queue
 




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