Ice yai are oni who take the rough forms of frost giants. Despite being chaotic, the ice yai race’s dedication to martial arts has taught them the value of discipline. Their leadership and drilling can turn already deadly but unpredictable frost giant tribes into truly effective fighting forces, and their spell-like abilities make them very hard to pin down.
A mountain range has long been home to a wild tribe of frost giants that alternately invaded or traded with the other species that shared the range. After last winter, the tribe has become dramatically more organized—and instead of raiding in a haphazard fashion, they now demand tribute for “protection.” A tribe of snow elves, chafing under the giants’ demands, seeks a savior.
A party of adventurers intervenes in a spell duel in the corner of the city, where two rival sorcerers are blasting each other (and much of the surrounding neighborhood) with ice spells. Even as they take the exhausted and battered magic-users into custody, they witness something horrifying at the center of the congelation—the birth of an ice yai, given physical form by the pain and sin of the duel’s devastating toll. The oni immediately flees the too-warm southern city, and now the party must try to stop the outsider as it travels cross-country seeking more favorable climes…and thralls to boot.
An ice yai forces its frost giant, hill giant, and ogre thralls to act out complicated mock battles for its amusement. Worse yet, it demands real bloodshed, choosing an actor from each side to wear a ring of regeneration and be gutted for its amusement. Frost giant Snori Dwarfbane wants no part of this nearly lethal panto. He will give up a rare magical dulcimer to anyone who can banish the oni before it is his turn to feel steel carving open his belly.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 207
As I was thinking about this post, it occurred to me that you could build an awesome campaign around oni infiltration. There’s something really exciting about a race of spirits bent on possessing mortal bodies. And I think that’s territory underexplored in fantasy. I’m generalizing here, but it seems like we talk a lot about transformation/conversion (undead, lycanthropes) or corruption/identity theft on a small scale (fiends, doppelgangers, rakshasas). But we don’t go for the full-on Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style mass takeovers that sci-fi is so fond of (Eberron’s quori being a notable exception…although given that they’re psionic creatures, that actually backs up my supposition.)
And we should, because there’s a lot of fertile ground there. Imagine a campaign where players start facing baddies whose leader always has an extra eye. Now imagine what happens if they then start uncovering kuwa in the society around them, either posing as mortals or even replacing and/or forcibly inhabiting mortal bodies. Even their friends and family could be unknowing sleeper agents or Manchurian candidates for the outsiders. And finally, out-and-out dueling with yai in the streets, as the oni invasion reaches a tipping point! Excuse me, I have to go roll up some NPCs…
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