Just as draugrs have become the default aquatic undead for low-level adventures, duppies seem to have become the default at mid-level, regularly popping up in seacoast random encounter tables. (Side note: I originally typed “popping up practically overnight”…and then I double-checked publication dates. Turns out it’s been four years since Isles of the Shackles was published. …Time and I are not friends.)
Wikipedia can give you the historic/folkloric lowdown on Caribbean and African duppies. In the Pathfinder game, a duppy is “the spirit of a cruel and brutal sailor who died by violence on land […] and thus was unable to receive a proper burial at sea,” according to Bestiary 5. Not only is this an evocative description, but it also easily inspires murder-mystery-type scenarios. A single duppy can be a very worthwhile adversary for low-level adventurers, while still remaining defeatable courtesy of its vulnerability to daylight and raise dead spells. Half the adventure is overcoming the duppy; the other half is in unraveling the crime that created the undead in the first place. (Kind GMs might also structure adventures so that solving the mystery and/or performing proper burial rites might stagger the angry spirit or otherwise aid in its eventual destruction. The party that does their religious legwork gets the edge.) Meanwhile packs of duppies can indicate greater crimes, such as sabotage, mass poisonings, ship burnings, and other monstrous deeds. PCs who only uncover the undead and not the crime might be missing out on an even bigger adventure.
A blood hag has pressed a pair of duppies into service. The soucouyant uses the ferocious undead to guard the perimeter of her mansion, their hounds keeping interlopers at bay while she is out hunting. (It would not do for anyone to see her daytime skin lying discarded like a corn husk in her bedroom.) When a new schoolteacher moves into town, one of the duppies breaks from the hag’s control. He wants to drain the young woman’s life, as she is the innocent daughter of the man who killed him, but since the schoolhouse and its apartment are on sacred ground, he can’t get to her—yet. Meanwhile, the hag covets the young woman’s skin…so the schoolteacher may be doomed anyway, unless adventurers act fast.
The halflings of Jermoa have a dark secret: They have given themselves over to worship of the Old Ones. Abducting sailors to be sacrificial grooms and brides has become something of a cottage industry (more accurately, a sea-cave industry) in this harbor town. They are careful not to abduct any of the Her Majesty’s naval men, but they have still made off with enough deserters, drunks, and smugglers that the outskirts of Jermoa are plagued with duppies. Between halfling black masses and packs of undead and their howling hounds, Jermoa is not a place to visit at night.
Not all duppies were sailors. The particularly harsh beliefs of many humanoid races often encourage their creation as well. Gnolls in particular tend to birth them—usually lame or injured males who have died after slinking away from their responsibility to their packs (said responsibility being to have perished in glorious battle or limped home to be cannibalized by their successful packmates). These lonely undead haunt the places of their demise, their ravenous hounds taking the form of cackling hyenas.
—Isles of the Shackles 48 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 101
Bestiary 5 is on the PRD now! I can finally link right to the source! Woo!
After an unexpected week off, I was back on air last night with a new show! This week was more canon than new or indie, as we celebrated 20 years of Beck’s Odelay. (Also 20 years of the Cable Guy soundtrack, because why not?) But I made sure to hit Wye Oak’s new single and drop in some classic ’90s hip-hop as well. Stream or download it here till Monday, 6/27, at midnight.