Friday, June 10, 2016

Mythology Folkore and Characters from America

I've learned over the years that not all characters and monsters from folklore and myth are created equal. Darn few aren't suitable for some kind of roleplaying game treatment.

Any game could use the little Cotswold Fairies, the Loch Ness Monster, Nisse, Trolls, Huldra folk, the Beast of Bray road or the 'Look Behind' are all good grist for our mill. So lets take a look at a few and how they fit into a roleplaying game campaign.

Note, I am ruthlessly ignoring any published 'facts' known about any of these critters, just the folklore and how they fit in the games.

The Jersey Devil
This first guy  is a personal favorite. The Jersey Devil is all American Folklore. You just don't get any more authentic scarey goodness. Allegedly the thirteenth offspring of the 'Witch' Leeds and Satan as a father the little tyke was born sometime around 1735.  After his blessed arrival he immediately turned into the "Jersey Devil". The Jersey Devil apparently sprang into being full sized with a goat head, bat wings, horse's hooves, and a bifurcated tail.

The Jersey Devil took one look at the inside of his mother's crowded, filthy, cabin in the woods and his twelve siblings and with a growl and a shriek killed the midwife flying out the chimney and heading for the Barrens.

In gaming terms he's a pretty versatile monster. He could be a seriously grim portent in Dungeon World. Deal with him (usually through some kind of exorcism ritual) or be ready for some serious cursing. He could be any other monster although with his unique heritage you should thinking of something bigger. He flies, kills his own midwife and makes a terrible shriek. What's not to like.

Sticking with the American theme we're going to look at something near and dear to my heart, Daskiya Woman (pronounced Dusk-ee-yah Woman). I don't have a good picture handy but this one will freeze your bones.

She is a figure in the Quileute culture on the coast of Washington. According to local folklore she lives down Thunder Road (a now gated road that leads into the Olympic National Park). Daskiya Woman is a nasty cannibal who prefers children. She carries a woven basket on her back and has long tangled gray hair (I have been accused of having hair like Daskiya Woman on occasion however, Mrs Giant assures me it is more 'Krusty the Klown'). She will snatch bad children that stay out after dark put pitch in their eyes to blind them and cook and eat them. She is strong, silent, and never seen unless you're on the menu.

Even twenty years ago you'd see kids come inside when mom called that 'Daskiya Woman will get you!', I am not sure if that is still the case. So while she's folklore she's still very much alive in belief. In game terms well she can fit nearly any ogreish child snatching type. She comes out at night is big strong and scary. Her basket will hold a child (or two) and muffle their cries for help. The only way to get the pitch out of your eyes is to heat up your hands by a fire. Since most games are not set in La Push, a GM should have a suitable place where she is said to live. You probably can't beat a real place under dark evergreens called Thunder Road.

Since I love the Quileutes and many have shared their stories I'll give you one more from the real Quileute Nation. This is a smaller creature than the Daskiya Woman. This is the Stick Indian. I do not know the native name for them (there are many) as the Native Americans do not like to attract their attention. Stick Indians (according to the Quileutes) are small unobtrusive people that cannot speak a real language but communicate in whistles and such. They claim food between the tide line and the end of the driftwood that fronts the beach and if you whistle you will attract their attention. If you whistle with food they will assume it is for them.

They defend themselves with thrown stones and have been known to try to lure children into the woods while berry picking. In game terms they are small fae like people, difficult or impossible to spot unless they want you to see them. One person described them as having yellow skin and black hair but that was the only physical description I heard of them except for their short stature. They can throw stones and whistle to lure people into the woods. So they could be wandering monsters in a forest or beach type environment.

Now we return to more frightening creatures or creature the Beast of Bray Road. is the Beast of Bray Road. It is a recent cryptid first mentioned in the 1930's. This guy is like a transformed werewolf or werebear that is three or four feet tall on all fours but can be bipedal and stands over seven feet tall. This creature attacks vehicles and is spotted eating roadkill in Wisconsin. Since the name Bray Road just sounds spooky go ahead and keep it for your 'Beast'. Game wise I shouldn't have to hold your hand with a big werewolf looking critter. Since it appeared in the thirties I am going with a government breeding experiment gone wrong. Fantasy games would be an alchemists or necromancer's experiment. Anyway it haunts the roads because it cannot hunt well and it is used to being fed by humans. If you toss food from the wagon/cart it will stop to eat it. It only becomes really dangerous if you try to take it's prey from it.

The Mothman Mothman is more complex. He was first spotted in Point Pleasant West Virginia. Point Pleasant is the kind of name that can translate into nearly any setting. Now to our critter. The Mothman is said to be large as a man with white wings and brilliant red eyes. Some describe it as owl-like others well as moth-like hence the name.

This is a creature that is spotted before a disaster occurs. It also is associated with the men in black phenomenon. That could work in a fantasy campaign as agents of a dark necromancer, the operatives of the Emperor, or even men from another dimension who record the terrible events that the Mothman heralds. It could be a cause of the terrible events or a warning. It is also known to occasionally attack kids in their cars this could translate to attacking any travelers after dark. The Mothman itself? A minor demon, a portent of worse things to come? Some kind of psychic vampire that feeds off the negative energy and fear.

I was deliberately vague about the mechanical effects for most of these critters so that GMs could fit them into their own worlds. If you enjoyed the article or hated it let me know. There's lots of more American creatures, people, and monsters to cover that fit into fantasy campaigns. I forgot to add this will be a regular feature until I run out of critters from the Americas and will then move on to creatures from anywhere that takes my fancy.


  1. I think you missed the greatest one of all, the chupacabra,

    1. Yes, I'll be covering the Chupacabra. How could I miss it? Next week.


  2. Jersey Devil (Solitary, Planar, Terrifying)
    Talons (w[2d10] damage 1 piercing) 12 HP (1 armor)
    Close, Reach
    Special Qualities: Unholy seer
    Allegedly the thirteenth offspring of the 'Witch' Leeds and Satan as a father the little tyke was born sometime around 1735. After his blessed arrival he immediately turned into the "Jersey Devil". The Jersey Devil apparently sprang into being full sized with a goat head, bat wings, horse's hooves, and a bifurcated tail. The Jersey Devil is like a banshee, a occult creature that acts as an omen for coming disaster. It will provide knowledge that only serves to drive its hearer to their own destruction, like the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Instinct: Ill omen

    Has terrible occult knowledge
    Promises doom

  3. Excellent write up. Exactly what I hoped for when I started writing this. You did a great job statting it out. We can't wait to hear how players react to the Devil.