Peregrine's Nest: Same Old Monsters

Halloween is monster season, and while it’s fun to bring out the classics, they can be a little predictable. So here are a few ways to adapt and refresh some of the traditional Halloween creatures and villains.

jack-o-lantern-7485483_1280.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Vampires​

Vampire variants are as common as vampire movies these days, so there is no shortage of ideas for different types of vampire in terms of their physical attributes. They might drain something other than blood, like energy, brain fluid, happiness or the like. You can also create a different cornucopia of weaknesses given the vast array of options, from garlic to crosses and running water.

However, one aspect of vampires that gets less focus is the religious curse of the origin. We tend to consider vampires to be a form of undead sub-species, a purely physical, if supernatural transformation. But some of the original myths treat vampirism as a curse from God. The legends around Vlad Tepes suggest he was so evil he was cursed with immortality, and the biblical Caine was cursed to ‘eat only ashes’ after killing his brother, which made him a good choice for the first vampire in the Vampire the Masquerade rpg.

So if a curse is part of the deal, the question becomes, what do you have to do to be cursed? Essentially you need to be bad, but not just bad, legendarily bad. You must betray everything you hold dear. In a fantasy game the most useful rule of thumb will be betraying a god after pledging yourself to them. So a follower of a healing deity that hurts people, a priest of war who refuses to fight at a critical moment, a sun worshipper who brings darkness wherever they go. Once you have decided who cursed the vampire, there is a great basis for deciding on their powers weaknesses and abilities.

So a curse based vampire might still be able to pass the curse on, but it might take more than just drinking the blood of their victim or the like. To make a new vampire the victim must be corrupted in some way. They need to not just agree that immortality would be fun but knowingly agree that killing to live forever and all that comes with it would be fine. This is the reason the vampire will need to visit them each night, not just to feed but to break down their will until they accept evil and damn themselves for eternity.

Werewolves​

The obvious twist on a werewolf is changing into other creatures, even though some can get pretty silly. Wereravens, cool, wereotters, not so much. Usually the change is a sudden one, once the full moon appears. But the moon never vanishes so perhaps a werecreature is in a constant state of transformation. They will be a full wolf on the night of the full moon, but as the moon waxes towards becoming full they will become more animalistic, prone to instinct and rage. Once the moon begins to wane they become more human day by day. This means they might be unable to live among humans for more than just the one night of the full moon, and actually be a ‘wolfman’ hybrid before and after the full moon rather than during.

You can reverse the myth as well. This might not be a human cursed to become an animal, but an animal who can live as a human for a few nights each month. What might they want to explore? What would they want to do that they couldn’t as an animal? How would they cope with gradually losing their intellect and reverting to being an instinctual animal? Would they relish the release or feel they are losing themselves each time?

The other aspect of a werecreature is rage and anger. They are usually consumed by it. In some cases this is why they become an animal, as it is not so much a transformation but surrender to an all-consuming emotion. So what other emotions might consume a person to the point of being a curse? Obviously being generally joyful and happy doesn’t make an especially scary monster. But jealousy, grief and despair can drive people to many dreadful things. The werecreature might be driven to take revenge each lunar cycle, or even try to destroy themselves from despair. In such a situation the player characters might be desperate to find the werecreature before they do something terrible to themselves rather than others.

Witches​

The witch is a tricky ‘monster’ to define, especially in a world where magic is prevalent. What is the difference between a witch and a wizard in such a world? The obvious answer is for this to be not a case of evil but simple misogyny. The people of the culture believe only men are capable of using magic safely, so female practitioners much be stopped before they cause harm. This can lead to developing some of the usual tropes. The witch lives in the forest as she can’t practice magic where she can be seen. She also has a lot of rage and anger towards the society that has rejected her and her talents just because of her gender.

In such a world a witch might lead a double life, pretending to be an ordinary member of society and working her art in secret. As such she disguises herself when working her magic to avoid getting recognised. Maybe she uses face paint to colour her skin, a fake nose and some boils and spots, so no one will believe the ugly witch of the woods is actually the lovely young daughter of the local baron. Where a witch has supposedly lived for a long time the disguise might be passed down from teacher to apprentice. Under such heavy makeup anyone might take on the role of the local forest witch.

The reverse of this might be that men cannot use magic, as it destroys and twists those who try. Only women have any resistance to its powerful corruption, and even then they are gradually deformed by it. Such women might be hailed as heroes for suffering such corruption so the community can benefit from her magical powers. But there may come a time where the corruption becomes too much and she might turn against her community and give in to the darkness. But who make the decision about when that might be?

Not Your Average Monster​

Hopefully this has given you a few interesting ideas. Going back to the origin of a creature is often a good way to redevelop it and maintain its essential nature.

Your Turn: What classic monsters are you aiming to add to your adventures and how are you using them in your campaign?
 

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Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine

aco175

Legend
I have a two-part monster where I took the basic scarecrow and added a Jack-O-Lantern for the head. When it is defeated, the head explodes and a fire snake emerges. The players were not questioning why the Jack-o-Lantern part had red, glowing eyes. They also missed the tie to the earlier encounter involved glowing fire snakes until after pumpkin heads were exploding.
 


Sketchpad

Explorer
I love a good spooky monster tale, and have used a bunch of variations over the years.

Want different Vampires? Make them more like beasts with limited intelligence that serve a smarter, and more dangerous master. Give them bat-like features, or even wolf-like. Maybe they don't drain, but devour. Or maybe they want something besides blood (like lifeforce or willpower). What if their nests were in higher regions, like a mountainous cave or a decrepit temple everyone fears.

What about werewolves? How about making them smarter and inherently evil. Not instinctual, but truly evil. Maybe they're spreading lycanthropy because that's how their species breeds, and they want to take over the world. Want something truly terrifying, use a werebeast. What happens when your best friend turns into something you've only seen in nightmares? Not wolf, bear, or any other known creature, the werebeast is big, angry, and HUNGRY!

With witches, I always like the concept that some magic just corrupts people. In the case of witches, or maybe I should say the classic Hag monster, it's dark magic that causes the hag to become a creature of darkness. Can they be saved? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on the magic, and the hold it has on them. Maybe they're almost like Deadites from Evil Dead, only magical and more manipulative. Or maybe they're a true creature of darkness feasting on the souls and organs of the pure and noble.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
One of the worst Halloween monsters is the "trick-or-treater." This malevolent fey has an ever-shifting, grinning face and performs horrible pranks if it doesn't receive the sugary treats it demands from its victims. (And not infrequently, it plays its pranks even when it does get its treats.)
 

Dr. Bull

Adventurer
Greetings! I've always enjoyed the discussion threads on Peregrin's Nest... Here are my ideas:

1. Fast Zombies. A nasty surprise for any jaded adventuring party.
2. Will O' Wisps, Undead Stirges, or Crawling Claws that attack in swarms.
3. I like Sketchpad's idea of intelligent were-beasts. Their hit-and-run and/or pack tactics could be terrifying.
4. One of my favorite scary monsters is the Wendigo. This creature hunts every night. No one is safe.
5. A free-roaming Banshee who tracks-down specific personality types (ambitious wizards, aggressive warriors, arrogant bards, etc.)
6. A Cambion, Deathnight, Demon, or Devil seeking to destroy an entire family line.
7. A Slaad reproducing in an isolated tavern (an idea from Dragon magazine... It's structured like the movies Aliens or The Thing).
8. A large pack of intelligent ghouls who masquerade as people.
9. A Rakshasa, Doppelganger, or Succubus who assumes the form of a trusted ally (or party member).
10. Introducing your unsuspecting party to new rules regarding demonic or ghostly possession.

- Dr. Bull
 

CharlesWallace

enworld.com is a reminder of my hubris
Greetings! I've always enjoyed the discussion threads on Peregrin's Nest... Here are my ideas:

1. Fast Zombies. A nasty surprise for any jaded adventuring party.
2. Will O' Wisps, Undead Stirges, or Crawling Claws that attack in swarms.
3. I like Sketchpad's idea of intelligent were-beasts. Their hit-and-run and/or pack tactics could be terrifying.
4. One of my favorite scary monsters is the Wendigo. This creature hunts every night. No one is safe.
5. A free-roaming Banshee who tracks-down specific personality types (ambitious wizards, aggressive warriors, arrogant bards, etc.)
6. A Cambion, Deathnight, Demon, or Devil seeking to destroy an entire family line.
7. A Slaad reproducing in an isolated tavern (an idea from Dragon magazine... It's structured like the movies Aliens or The Thing).
8. A large pack of intelligent ghouls who masquerade as people.
9. A Rakshasa, Doppelganger, or Succubus who assumes the form of a trusted ally (or party member).
10. Introducing your unsuspecting party to new rules regarding demonic or ghostly possession.

- Dr. Bull
I remember #7! I loved that idea, though never played it:

 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Strzyga/Strigoi - a woman born with two rows of teeth, cursed to transform into a feral, owl creature feeding on the flesh and blood of newborns, covers all the bases - vampire, lycanthrope and witch in a single package

Lamia/Lilitu - the same package but with Snake features instead (see Bram Stoker for the White Worm too)

Intelligent and fast moving Ghouls make for great serial killers too

My favourite though is Lhiananshee, so much so that in one of my homebrews all Elfs start of as creatures of Mist and desire, who seek to lure in mortals so they can drain them of their 'substance' - if they succeed via seduction or as muses or sometimes through violence the victim will fade into the mist while the Lhiananshee will become an Elf (Elfs arent liked imc)
 

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