Originally water spirits from Slavic folklore, vodyanois in gaming have been everything from froglike old men to aquatic umber hulks. The old man aquatic fey from 3.5’s Frostburn probably hews the closest to the mythology; Pathfinder’s take is a more workaday, salamander-like humanoid reminiscent of the water-manipulating specimens from China Miéville’s Bas-Lag.
Well…I say workaday, but that’s up to you. Their spell-like abilities grant them a mystical cast that, while not fey in nature, is certainly singular. Perhaps they are only found in the deep swamps, and visiting them (perhaps in a desperate attempt to acquire a cure disease or a neutralize poison) is an adventure in itself. Or maybe, as in Bas-lag, they live among humanoids, working on the docks and using their talents to guide ships in and out of canal locks and narrow harbors. Only the really careful observer might realize that, though they are crammed in the most dank and undesirable slums, disease never touches their dank quarters, and no poison passes their rubbery lips…
The palace of Velixi is under the spell of some terrible poltergeist or penanggalen! At least that is the supposition of the guards and hired inquisitors, for what else can explain victims who have died of drowning on the castle’s roof, been pushed off balconies, or perished after having apparently been clawing at their own throats? In truth a vodyanoi is to blame. Seeking revenge for his people’s displacement, ill treatment, and outright murder at the hands of Velixi nobility, he has used the palace’s sewage system and cisterns to move in secret, and his own aqueous talents to suffocate or otherwise assassinate his targets.
A vodyanoi and a bale of kappas have a long-running dispute over territory, focused on custody of a particular footbridge. The kappas claim the bridge because it is a favorite spot for their pranks. The vodyanoi claims the bridge because he has a fondness for singing, and often requests—or, when he is in a foul mood, demands—a tune from travelers seeking to cross. This makes crossing the little bridge quite an adventure. Bogatyri (usually cavaliers, paladins, or samurai) tend to have the worst luck, as the clanking of their armor draws the troublesome humanoids like moths to a flame.
For years, a tribe of boggards shared a swamp with a clan of vodyanois (comprising three extended families) in relative piece. Then Gulpmaw the mobogo arrived. The boggards quickly turned on the vodyanois, and several of the salamanderfolk have since vanished down Gulpmaw’s gullet. The vodyanois recruit adventurers to help them against the monstrosity…but they may not keep their word when it comes to a reward. They have found strong evidence that suggests a conjurer or drowning-priest lured the mobogo to their swamp, and anti-human sentiment is running high.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 281
Happy Valentine’s Day! Thanks for snuggling up to this blog.
Another more Western take on The Poisonous Other Among Us is the nigh unpronounceable ermordenung that appeared in Ravenloft…
Thanks, ohgod! Though I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean. Das ist nicht eine harte Wort zu sagen, and die Ermordenungen sind super Monster.
(Actually they’re pretty scary. Save vs. instant death is practically 1st Edition-level GM cruelty. At least they’re confined to one domain thanks to the physics of Ravenloft.)