Monster Monday #11: Krampus
Updated: Mar 4
First off I'll start by saying that I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and is enjoying their holiday season! I've been focusing on winter-themed monsters and figures this last month and this week is no different! I'm taking a look at Krampus, a well-known figure found most commonly in Alpine folklore. This creature pops up most notably during the Christmas season alongside its counterpart, St. Nicholas, who rewards the good children with gifts, while Krampus punishes those that have been naughty. This is usually by beating them with a birch rod but in some versions can go to more extreme lengths - eating, drowning, or carting the children off to hell being notable examples. It is said to be very devil-like in appearance - a bipedal humanoid, often carrying chains, with cloven hoofs, long and curled horns that resembles a goat, and covered in black or brown fur.
The origin of Krampus, also known in some areas as Klaubauf, Bartel, or Parkelj is actually unclear and has caused much debate amongst folklorists and anthropologists. It is often cited to have pre-dated Christianity and has a complicated relationship with the religion as a result, but has certainly been assimilated by it and is often associated with Satan, the Christian devil, as a result. There is often a lot of ceremony surrounding Krampus's appearance and the 5th December, known as Krampusnacht, is when he visits. Much like one may offer Santa Claus milk and cookies in modern times on Christmas Eve, Krampus famously prefers schnapps and it is a custom to offer him this during Krampuslauf, an event in which young men dress up as the legendary figure and attempt to scare spectators. Other traditions include Perchtenlauf, a play commonly associated with the figure, or Krampuskarten in which people exchange cards that illustrate the figure chasing or looming over children.
Though this creature has a lot of very specific folklore, there are a number of creatures that are similar found in various stories and legends. St. Nicholas is said to have many 'bad' counterparts depending on where about in Europe you are - the Netherlands has Zwarte Piet, Poland has the Turoń, Finland has the Nuuttipukki and Germany's is named Knecht Ruprecht, for example, while in southern Germany, the 'good' and 'bad' counterparts are combined into one entity - Belsnickel. In Austria, the origin of Krampus is attributed to the Pagan goddess Perchta (from which the name of the play Perchtenlauf stems from) and she is often depicted as having one human foot and one goose foot which is similar to a variant legend which depicts Krampus with one hoof and one human foot. A creature even appears in Japanese folklore, named Namahage, which appears around New Years celebrations and is an equally terrifying Oni (a Japanese troll, ogre, or demon) that punishes layabouts. I have also already talked abut the allusions to Satan and devils as a whole, but Krampus also closely resembles the archetype of the Bogeyman, a figure that is often used as a cautionary tale for children told by parents to discourage bad behaviour.
Krampus specifically has experienced a surge of popularity in recent years, especially in Hollywood (with notable releases including Krampus, a comedy-horror, and A Christmas Horror Story), meaning that it has become something of a phenomenon in America within the last decade. It has also appeared in episodes of notable TV series such as Grimm, Supernatural and The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina as well as perhaps inspiring popular 'anti-Christmas' characters such as Dr Seuss's 'Grinch' or The Nightmare Before Christmas's 'Oogie Boogie'.
So now it is time for some STAT BLOCKS! Hooray! Oddly, this will actually be a little harder because beyond appearance and a love for punishing naughty children, there really isn't much ability wise to go off! So let's see what we can come up with...
So let's start with Wizard Of The Coast's Oni (Basic Rules, page 336).
Okay so GRANTED this looks pretty much nothing like what Krampus is depicted to look like. It is after all a Giant stat block rather than a Fiend, which is probably where I'd usually place the legendary Christmas devil and so this might feel like an unusual choice. However, this CR 7 has a lot of lore that plays into Krampus's very well and it caught my attention. I loved its ability to shift between being Large and Medium as dependant on whether you are reading about the original folkloric creature or a more modern interpretation, Krampus's size differs. This stat block also comes with some well-themed Innate Spellcasting which point towards its wintry origins, a Regeneration ability which will make it a little tougher, and a Glaive which is magical (with a 10 ft. reach and slashing damage, which means it could easily be flavoured as some kind of chain whip instead). I liked this as a good starting point and aesthetically it could be changed to resemble a more traditional looking Krampus. I'd also looked at the CR 3 Bulezau (Mordenkainen's Tome Of Foes, page 131) as a potential starting option for its look and I would perhaps replace the Oni's flying speed with the Bulezau's Sure-Footed and Standing Leap abilities too!
Next up - the Horned Devil (Basic Rules, page 276).
So besides the wings (I would look to changing the flying speed with the Bulezau's Sure-Footed and Standing Leap abilities again) this CR 11 stat block has everything going for it aesthetically! Many images of Krampus do depict it with the famous forked staff and being a Devil typed Fiend, it has a lot of the resistances, lore, and abilities you might expect of a resident of hell. It's a simple choice, with nothing overly imaginative to set it apart from a generic 'devil' encounter which is a bit of a shame. But used as a base, this could be a great option for someone that needs to grab something quickly, and is of a decent difficulty that it will still be a memorable fight for your party!
My final Wizards Of The Coast choice is for a much higher tier of play - Moloch (Mordenkainen's Tome Of Foes, page 176).
A small part of me feels that CR 21 may be a little too high...but then I do also think that Krampus would potentially be an Arch-Devil given its fame and so perhaps this CR is about right? Regardless - I really love how much fun this stat block is! Being an Arch-devil it gets Legendary Actions, Innate Spellcasting, the resistances we might expect (including Legendary Resistances) and of course magical weapon attacks! Beynd that, I loved its Breath Of Despair ability (seeing as St. Nicholas is said to bring joy and happiness with him, a creature with the ability to spread fear and hopelessness is a cool concept) and its Many-Tailed Whip which reminded me of, and can be flavoured as, the chains that Krampus is said to carry! Perhaps replace the Lightning damage with Cold damage and you have an epic fight idea!
I think these are some pretty cool starting points to create a decent Krampus encounter using Wizards Of The Coast stat blocks, but in order to get a little more imaginative I had to look a little further out! First of all, check out Monkey_DM's Reddit Thread on this awesome stat block they've made! It's quite low at a CR 4 but I liked the themed abilities such as Snow Camouflage, Abduct, and Sense Bad Deed, and I think it's an ideal choice for a low-level one shot! I also really liked DMDave's Stat Block which is a CR 13 and has Legendary actions, resistances, and Innate Spellcasting as well as a few abilities that really tie in with some of the folklore around Krampus such as Ruten or Chain Rattle.
So we've looked at some stat block ideas, and now we need some plot hooks!
The party arrive during the village's mid-winter festival in which a strange ceremony involving a young man dressed up as a terrifying devil is being performed. When the party ask, the village tell the party the strange tale behind the tradition.
A month ago, all the town's parents were growing tired of their children misbehaving so invented a story together about a devil that would take them away if they kept being naughty. It seemed to be working a treat but in the last week their children have actually begun to disappear...
During one winter's night the party distantly spot what looks like a man carrying a sack through the village. They think nothing of it until he leaps onto the rooftop without issue and heads towards the chimney. Suddenly, a muffled cry emanates from the sack.
While camping out, two figures arrive by the campsite and ask to share the party's warmth and food. One wears the garb of a cleric and chats with the party while the other is silent and wears long robe with a hood. After some time getting to know the party, they will either reward or punish each individual member dependant on how they were treated by them.
While travelling through Hell the party stumble upon a shack that seems very out of place. Inside they find captured children, and some digging reveals this to be the home of the legendary Krampus. Eventually they are faced with the creature itself (this could be a good way of creating a festive themed side-quest within a hell-themed campaign, such as Descent Into Avernus)!
I hope you enjoyed the little deep-dive into some Christmas themed folklore! Did your party encounter any interesting monsters in your festive one-shots or campaigns recently? Have you used or will you use Krampus in your games? Let me know!