Monday, September 10, 2012

Jiang-Shi Vampire

Most mainstream fantasy draws from European traditions.  So inserting monsters from other cultures can seem awkward at times.  (Ogre magi, for instance, always felt a bit weird in early editions of the world’s oldest role-playing game—after years of fighting dumb ogre brutes, magical genius ogres felt like a dirty trick.)  But others fit in more seamlessly—the penanggalen has always worked well, and the jorogumo, given a name change, would fit in with any drow, ettercap, or aranea encounter.  Plus, anime series like Record of Lodoss War and Claymore have nicely blurred the lines between West and East anyway.

So even if you avoid using oni, kami, and the like, the jiang-shi vampire has a place in your campaign.  You can take it as written, or tweak the cosmetic elements.  Your hopping vampires might hate flour or barley.  Their prayer scrolls might remain as such or be pennies in their eyes, funereal shrouds, prayer medallions, or other visible tokens.  If hopping doesn’t work for you, they might pounce or lurch madly out of their dire hunger, for essentially the same effect.  In a hobby with undead that go back 30-plus years, jiang-shi vampires are a breath of fresh air at the gaming table—or at least, a breath of graveyard rot…

When the Wu family emigrated to Windholm, they found peace and prosperity  that eluded them in their native Ping, and the clan’s Twelve Mighty Sons each sired more than a dozen heirs.  Now the Wu run an enclave of merchants, tailors, and barristers that has acclimated well into Windhovan society.  But as the eldest members of the clan die out, their spirits find it hard to rest so far from home, rising as jiang-shi vampires.  Out of respect, the Wus may not raise their hands against their undead elders, but they can hire adventurers to put them down—with prayers, peach stakes, or steel.

The nation of Farstead has a tradition of binding or crucifying criminals to T-shaped posts and leaving them to die of thirst and exposure.  This agonizingly slow death tends to create vampires of appalling strength.  Strapped to their posts even in death, they resemble horrible hopping scarecrows, pogoing (a gnomish word) toward victims and raking them with the long claws of their still-bound hands.  Most of these hopping vampires still have their names and respective crimes on signs hung around their necks.

On the world of Erets, the written word resonates strongly.  Every magic item has a name, golems are powered by the scrips in their heads, and all calling and summoning spells have some sort of written component.  But with this power comes costs.  Debtors, oath-breakers, and spellcasters who die with their name attached to too many constructs or outsiders often rise as milah (word) vampires, with their outstanding obligations marked in parchment on their brows.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 278–279

Hebrew-speaking readers, forgive me if I’ve just butchered your language.  Nothin’ but love for all the members of the Tribe.

Looking for the jellyfish swarm?  We did that already.

Finally, last week filbypott rose to the defense of the slaadi after I dissed them, and offered a compelling case for putting both slaadi and proteans in your cosmology.  See his thoughts here, and stay for his Pathfinder conversions of favorite D&D monsters.

Behold!  The first episode of The New Indie Canon for the fall semester.  Download it and feel joy. With new Eternal Summers, old Guided By Voices, new Flock of Dimes, and The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.

(Music starts just over two minutes into the file.  Remember, the feed can skip, so for best results load in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, and enjoy in iTunes.)

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