In an effort to write more and generate “content” for my blog, I decided to take a hint from some other blog posts and also my initial writings for this blog (which I haven’t posted), and remix old monsters that need a refresher for D&D. If drastically changed, I’ll include stats, but otherwise it’s assumed you can use the old stat block and powers. Oliver at Graven Utterance and I decided to give each other monsters to remix, and I was given the Barghest. Mostly because I like their official art in older editions.
I traditional D&D, Barghests are demons from Gehenna that are goblin werewargs, with some nasty spells to help them avoid detection, beginning in second edition. In mythology and folklore, barghests are a kind of Black Dog trope, which are in itself a kind of hellhound. So right from the bat I can see why they chose to make them goblins (ties into English Folklore roots) and outsiders (plane or Gehenna) to help distinguish them amongst their peers.
D&D and sword-dice games have a plethora of dog-monsters: wolves, wargs, winter wolves, werewolves, jackalweres, and a billion other variants. Especially with barghests, they’re a kind of shapechanger (also associated with wolves), and their spells are to avoid detection. They’re pretty powerful, so I see them as nasty hit-and-run tactics bosses from a modern tactical RPG perspective.
Black Dogs can vary from mythos to mythos, even local areas in English folklore. Only some Black Dogs are Barghests. And so one of our tasks is to distinguish our remix just like the official version. Moreso, when I heard the term I think immediately to the rumor of Winston Churchill having depression he referenced as a Black Dog, and that gives me some ideas.
Barghest, Stygian werewargs, Black Dogs of the Unseelie, Cocytus Baptised Wolves
From which underworld they come we do not know. Scholars and magi who’ve tracked them have gone mad, or worse- torn apart by invisible monsters, hunted back from their trips by black shadows with rictus grins at the corners of their peripheral vision, their powerful minds soured.
Whip-thin, with bestial eyes and mouths too big for their bodies, and teeth that are all fangs. Some say they look like dogs or baboons, long and loping as they bay after those they chase. Others say they look like wild children with mange, wispy shadow-black hairs dangling lifelessly from moon-pale flesh. Their fingers and limbs gangrel, their ears pointed, and their glee sadist and malevolent.
The barghests drink up joy and sorrow, feed themselves and sup on the pleasures of life, leaving none for their victims. A victim hounded by a barghest will find that neither drink nor food nor flesh nor any manner of pleasure provides but temporary relief. All in the world has devolved into a black pit, from which there is no escape. Their days will eventually be spent bedridden, and their emotions devolve into a sense of being a hollow shell. The Great Sorrow is ambrosia to the depression-drinker.
But the Barghest knows too well that a clean kill is that of the natural world. And they are far from it. Why kill the cow when you can bleed it? Drop. By. Drop. A Barghest will hardly fully kill a meal in one swoop, but will instead hunt in a wide pattern, performing all manner of cruelties and injustices to the preferred victim. A cousin passed. A lover has an accident. Good news doesn’t arrive (the messenger’s flesh rent and left to rot in the woods). Life’s cruelties are magnified by the unnatural beast, and it relishes every second of it.
Lonely travelers are a favorite victim. A stroke of the claw like the reaper’s scythe and then they follow the trail of sorrows like a hound after a scent, tongues lapping the earth for traces of tears, licking up the laughter and leaving none for the new victim sitting by the windowsill or the mailbox.
Invariably it is here, in the lonesome woods and darkling places of the world that adventurers meet the Barghest, or perhaps in some abominable crypt where insane priests have summoned or trapped one to pluck from it the blackest secrets of the netherworld.
Whom do they serve? Why do they torture so? Who knows. And who cares when one has its fangs at your throat? Some more darker powers in the gloaming world employ barghests in pairs as hunting dogs, black-ops troops in the magical world of things that should-not-be. But never more than two, lest the pack turn on its handler, and then fight amongst themselves for supremacy.
HP: 50, AC as leather and shield, Saves on a 14+, vulnerable to silver and iron
Attacks: Claw/Claw/Bite d6/d6/d8 +2/+2/+3 to hit/dmg, Hitting with all 3 attacks knocks the target down and allows them to be dragged/moved by the Barghest as it fights
Thief-of-Joy: mortals within 100 feet of a Barghest do not receive experience points from treasure found and must save vs magic to end a rest as depression takes hold of them. Carousing in the same building as a Barghest provides no benefit and consumes double resources.
Spells: At will Invisibility, Dancing lights, ventriloquism, spider climb, pass without trace (or system equivalent)