Ages ago, I briefly—God, how short and tidy my entries were back then (#hadalife #notreally)—touched on how Pathfinder refashioned the bugbear in Classic Monsters Revisited. At the time, said refashioning was pretty dramatic, almost jarring. Could you really marry Gygax’s furry goblin bugbears with the classic monster-in-the-closet bugbears? But looking back, it’s a harbinger of Paizo’s modus operandi for a lot of their monster/worldbuilding work: Reconcile the gaming heritage with the mythic heritage for a new cohesive whole, then upgrade.
What I didn’t get to in that entry—and what really made the bugbear come alive for me after my initial skepticism—were the many subraces that this mythical rework freed up the Pathfinder authors to create. A bugbear that masks itself as a tree or rock like a tanuki? Sure! A bugbear that can turn into mud? Why not? A half-dead bugbear whose victims rise as attic whisperers? Hells yeah.
And, of course, a polar bugbear that can quench fires. Even better, only salt can reveal its tracks—a nice fairy-tale touch! Now fully statted up in the Bestiary 4, the wikkawak is out there, lurking…
Clan elders discover an igloo painted in blood and only one traumatized survivor. The forlorn man, who heard his whole family slaughtered out in the dark, is accused of being a murderer, a cannibal, or worse still, the thrall of a wendigo. As a punishment, he will soon be frozen in a block of ice and sent out to sea (to keep him from running into the sky to join the evil spirit), unless the real culprit, a wikkawak, is found.
Hunter of Midnight is a wikkawak that preys on lone trappers and lumberjacks. Two black-hearted winter atomies (see Pathfinder Adventure Path #68) serve as his scouts. Hunter of Midnight and the faeries leave clues behind, if investigators are observant. In addition to quenching every fire, the monsters smash any saltcellars or cold iron objects, finding them threatening.
Parents in hamlets up and down Falcontal warn their children about Father Snatchclaw, who will come and steal them away if they are naughty before the Solstice. But “Father Snatchclaw” is really the Clawfeet, a warband of wikkawaks that travel up and down the valley in winter. Long ago the local mayors worked out a deal with the bugbears, promising no resistance if the warband only preys on designated households—which just so happen to be the dwellings of the poor and undesirable.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 278