Monday, 26 October 2015

Table Top Tips - Three Fairytales for Table-Top Scenarios and Monster Ideas

Three Fairytales for Table-Top Scenarios and Monster Ideas

Once again I have dived into the world of folktales and myths! These are three myths, One Scottish, One English and One Welsh, which could be used as a basis for monsters, scenarios or a bit of village history. 

The Nuckelavee, or Old Nick, is a Scottish myth of a horseman terrorising the islands of Orkney. The creature rises from the thrashing seas in the winter months and chases down poor, unsuspecting folk to murder them. With it, it brings pestilence and disease. Its breath i
Hospitable. Totally hospitable. 
s said to be an acidic fog of wilting gas; destroying all crops and farmland it passes. It a creature of the sea, a humanoid monstrosity astride a great demonic horse. Similar to Pestilence, one of the the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it is best known for bringing drought and famine wherever it rides.

Described as being a bizarre mutation, Nuckelavee is a full grown horse  of monstrous size with its rider emerging like a tumour from its back; Nuckelavee has distinctly aquatic features, such as webbed hands and oozing gills upon its neck. Its head is supposedly large and a grotesque bulbous shape with a mouth that protrudes from its face like a long muzzle or snout.  Depictions vary on the number of eyes it has, however, all who describe them note that it has one or two eyes which burn red. Its skin is slick and leathery with bulging black veins .

The only way to escape the Nuckelavee is to cross running, fresh water. Like many folk-tales, demons cannot cross fresh water. During the summer months, Old Nick is said to be confined to the sea by an ocean god or goddess of Orcanian Legend. 

This great monster could be the premise for a dark and gritty investigation during the winter months. Old Nick could be the big bad riding amongst the local villages, murdering and spreading plague as it goes. Either a party of adventurers, or perhaps villagers themselves, could hunt this creature down in across the winter gripped lands of Scotland in hopes of freeing their own village of a plague. This could simply be an additional creature to an on running campaign set in a fictional village anywhere you desire. The creeping horror, hiding the appearance and nature of the Nuckelavee from the players, could be an excellent slow burning adventure involving investigation and tracking.

Needless to say, this repugnant fiend is an excellent Fairytale creature to build a monster or adventure around.

Black Annis is the name of an English Witch; similar in style to the great Baba Yaga and other notorious evil old women who invoke the power of devils and other world horrors. She is by far one of my favourite horrifying witches. She has iron claws, bluish skin like that of someone suffocated, and she haunts the misty moorland and dales of the English country side looking for young sheep and children to murder gruesomely. She skins her child victims alive, devours their flesh and bones, and hangs their tanned skins from trees like grim flags of victory. Her haunting doesn't stop on the moors, she also reaches into homes and kidnaps babes to cook into stews.
Includes Built-in Cauldron, Scenic View of Hills,
Corpses of Children.

In appearance she is depicted as an old hag, with needle teeth, blue rotting skin, and iron claws to climb cliff faces and trees. She is said to wear the skin of recently slaughtered children as a skirt. However, it may be fun to have her depicted as an unseemly, plain woman and the party needs to investigate to find her amongst the normal and terrified village people.

An excellent setting for investigation or a final encounter, is her hovel rumoured to be located in a dangerous cliff-face.

Your players may be related, and their children stolen in the night. Perhaps they are children themselves. There is an urgency in finding  or escaping from the witch, whether she is hiding in plain sight as an unsuspecting villager or really a monster in nearby woods. Both the villagers and the players would have to face the mind-destroying realisation that it is innocent children being tortured and consumed. 

Alternatively, Black Annis could be another side monster in an over arching campaign, or even just a tale or rumour often told by townsfolk to give your village a bit or character.

A simple welsh myth that could be an excellent one-shot with a Hound of the Baskervilles flavour. In a village called Beddgelert, a prince had a beautiful baby boy and a loyal old dog named Gelert. One night, the Prince Llewelyn entered the bedroom to see that the crib was upturned and his child nowhere to be found. Enraged and distraught, Llewelyn assumed that Gelert had attacked and devoured the baby, so he slew the dog by piercing his heart with his sword. The baby is then revealed to be hidden beneath the upturned crib and, as Gelert lets out his final betrayed whimper, the baby cries. Horrified, Llewelyn buries his faithful hound honourably but forever hears the last whimper and never smiles again.  In some versions, a dead wolf is found with the baby which explains why Llewelyn sees blood, showing Gelert to be devoted to his masters child by killing the wolf.
Who's a good boy?!

It may be that Beddgelert is being haunted by the spirit of Gelert, who is mauling either newborn babies or the new fathers of these babies in the night on the road. Alternatively, a demon wolf is praying on the young and the party must revive Gelert's spirit or obtain Llewellyn's blade to slay the beast. Similarly with Black Annis, this tale could be a rumour and myth in the village, which leads to a worship of hounds, giving the village some character.

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