Imagine a cold so gelid even souls can’t escape it. Now imagine a creature that creates that kind of cold—and feeds on the souls it traps. That’s the bisha ga tsuku.
[Those words were much more fun when I originally typed them more than a week ago. Since then I a) contracted The Cold The Would Not Die that KOed all of the past week, including Christmas with my brother in Portland, and b) got diverted out of Chicago (still sick!) because of ice and snow. I’m currently in a hotel room in Minneapolis, which gives soul-trapping cold a whole new meaning.]
Inspired by Japanese folklore—and check out the illustrations on this page if you want some wonderfully creepy yōkai art—the bisha ga tsuku is an outsider (not least because it is born from a soul, and consumes other souls in turn) but a native one (meaning it falls outside the usual planar allegiances...it’s not even an oni). It’s almost a thing of pure cold itself…but it’s also not an elemental ice creature, as it clearly has some kind of vaguely amphibious (and tentacled) body. Like those rare forms of life that only grow in the vents of undersea volcanoes, the bisha ga tsuku seems to be a thing that chucks the usual rules of spiritual taxonomy out the window.
In other words, it’s a creepy snow creature, but not in any of the ways most players would suspect. And it’s creeping up behind you as we speak. Bisha bisha. Bisha Bisha. Bisha Bisha…
Windmarsh Monastery is known to be haunted by a yuki-onna. Historically the prayers and spells of the friars have kept the undead spirit at bay, but this season three brothers have been found frozen to death out on the moors. One of the yuki-onna’s recent victims was a low-ranking member of the Assassins’ Guild, and he has returned as a bisha ga tsuku eager to kill without regard to contracts or holy ground.
Adventurers seek the dread plateau of Leng. Before they can reach it, they must face a number of hazards in the high mountain passes, including avalanches, half-mad yeti sentinels, and strange stone monoliths that move on their own. Worse yet, a bisha ga tsuku lurks near an otherwise ideal camping spot (a narrow ravine sheltered from the wind) sapping the soul energy of all who come through.
On the frozen moon of Wintersmith, the intrepid miners seek out mithral by sending diving bells deep below the frozen crust. When a distant but profitable mining station goes silent, a band of sellswords is called in to investigate. A bisha ga tsuku is the culprit, having already devoured the souls of most of the men. Truly perceptive adventurers might also realize that the outsider’s presence foreshadows another mystery: Wintersmith was supposed to be uninhabited…so whose soul created the bisha ga tsuku?
—Pathfinder Bestiary 5 42
Hey guys! Long time no see. I’d type more, but I need every ounce of strength to manage my nonstop tissues-and-lozenges regimen.