Monster Monday #7: Baobhan Sith
Updated: Mar 4
It has been a couple of weeks since I have last posted one, but I've been wanting to get back to my favourite blog series - it's time for Monster Monday! As it's starting to get a little colder, I thought I'd step away from the sun-soaked lands of Greece and Egypt from the last two weeks and head to the Scottish highlands for my next choice. The Baobhan Sith (pronounced Baa'vaan Shee, a pronunciation that is strikingly similar to that of the Banshee) is famously known for making victims of hunters and travellers that use the less-frequented paths through the wilderness. They particularly choose men for their victims, luring them in with seductive promises before striking. The 'type' of creature that they are is often a point of contention - they are thought to be fey, with traditional fairy vulnerabilities such as iron, their love of dancing and deer legs hidden under their long, green dresses or cloaks - similar to a Satyr or Faun. They also share a lot of vampiric characteristics - an aversion to sunlight, drawing the blood of their victims, and even shapeshifting abilities.
There are many variations on the tales regarding these creatures, though they follow a similar structure. A group of male travellers will be searching for a place to camp out at night (in some variations these men are criminals, or have harmed or assaulted women during their lives) and will wish for the company of a woman. After doing so, they will suddenly encounter a group of them who will invite them into their home to stay, dance with them, and offer their company. Normally during the revelry one of the group will notice that something is off - perhaps he will spot a glimpse of a hoof or notice blood splatters on the floor while his friends are drained dry. He will usually barely escape with his life and then return the next morning to discover the women gone and the husks of his former companions. The tale gives many clear warnings - 'be wary of strangers', 'be careful what you wish for' and even that 'your actions and life choices have consequences'. Interestingly, it lines up with a Christian Scottish belief that if you make a wish at night without invoking God's protection, it may come true in some terrible manner.
While the Baobhan Sith feels like a striking, unique creature it does bare many similarities to plenty of folkloric creatures from around the world. The first that comes to mind is the better-known Succubus, a Demon from Jewish folklore that seduces men (often in their dreams) and feeds off of their sexual energy, usually causing poor mental health or even death in the process. This is very similar to the Leanan Sidhé, Irish fey that are said to take mortals as lovers, filling their lives with inspiration and passion but ultimately shortening them by driving them mad. The Glaistig (also from Scottish folklore) is a ghost that shares striking similarities with the Baobhan Sith, including the legs of goats instead of humans. She is also known as the Green Lady and has been described as a noblewoman that has been cursed with a 'fairy nature' or immortality. The Deer Woman or Deer Lady in Native American mythology is a figure who (like the Baobhan Sith) is also fond of dancing, and is revered by those that are respectful to women and children as a Fertility Goddess, but lures those that are not to their deaths. Aicha Kandicha is found in Moroccan folklore - a beautiful woman with the legs of a goat or a camel, who lurks near water sources and seduces men before maddening or killing them. Other close comparisons include the Tunda of Columbian folklore that shares the shapeshifting abilities of the Baobhan Sith, or the Patasola of South-American folklore, a vampire that lures her victims into the jungle to drain their blood.
The Baobhan Sith's behaviour is often compared to a White Lady, a type of spirit that I previously mentioned in my post on La Llorona (link here) and is found in some form or another in folklore world-wide, usually involved in some local tragedy and appearing to travelling strangers either to enlist their help or target them maliciously. The Dames Blanches of French folklore invoke very similar imagery to the Baobhan Sith, as they like to dance and haunt the hills and mountains of the French countryside. The combination of a beautiful woman with some sort of animal (in this case a deer) also brings to mind many other mythical creatures around the world that display these characteristics - the Sirens of Greek mythology for example were beautiful women that resembled Harpies, in that they had wings or legs of birds. During the Middle Ages they were given fish tails instead and became what we now know as the legendary Mermaid figure, singing to sailors from the rocks and luring them to their deaths.
While the Baobhan Sith are not often specifically cited in pop culture aside from a few references here and there, such as in literature like Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist or Caledonia by Amy Hoff, there are plenty of examples in pop culture of a female creature seducing or luring a man away to their doom. Dracula's wives or female Vampires are often portrayed as being guilty of this, as seen in shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Sugababe's music video for Freak Like Me. Following the lines of a Succubus, one episode of Torchwood had an alien-like gas infecting people and then feeding off the life-force of those they had sex with. Supernatural included an episode with an Incubus too, and the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods gave some of these vibes when following Bilquis's movements.
So just how easy is it to get these very niche creatures into your game? The answer is not very if you are looking at pre-built stat blocks! They are super unique in their design and its hard to find anything that matches the description exactly! I have however done my best to come up with some interesting close matches that, with a bit of tweaking, could be just what a DM needs to include these creatures!
Let's start with what Wizards Of The Coast have to offer! My choice here is the Succubus (Basic Rules, page 349).
First of all there are many things WRONG with this stat block, though it is a good one for an actual Succubus and as I mentioned above, that creature definitely shares a lot of similarities with the Baobhan Sith. Being a vampiric fairy, a Fiend is obviously the wrong choice though. Whats more, instead of the deer legs we have come to expect from this unusual creature, it has wings...and a flying speed. Hmm. That being said, it is a pretty solid starting point. It's two core abilities - Charm and Draining Kiss - are perfect and I love it's Etherealness action and Shapeshifting too as it makes it seem a little more Fey-like. At a CR 4 it's a good low to mid level encounter and as the Baobhan Sith like to travel in groups that could certainly up the challenge of this encounter!
Another good option takes the form of the Vampire Spawn (Basic Rules, page 354).
We are getting a little closer to the expectation we might have of a Baobhan Sith - for one, it's a vampire and so has the Undead creature type! It also has the Sunlight Hypersensitivity we might expect and also the classic vampire's Bite attack which certainly match the description of the Baobhan Sith. It's a CR 5 which means that again, in higher numbers, this could be a challenging encounter (or you could even upgrade to the CR 13 Vampire (Basic Rules, page 352) or CR 15 Vampire Spellcaster (Monster Manual, page 298) for higher tiers of play and extra abilities such as Shapeshifting (changing out the Bat for a Raven wild be a little closer to the lore), Charm, and even some spells. There are even Lair Actions with these spell slots which could be awesome on a foggy mountain pass! The problem I have with using vampire stat blocks is they just feel a little too generic? And there is very little Fey about these creatures, they are ALL vampire.
So when in doubt I turn to Kobold Press and it took a LOT of searching even then. This is certainly my most challenging creature so far! However - I finally found it. Meet the Mirager (Tome Of Beasts, page 291).
Now I know you are thinking 'Mirage? As in desert? We couldn't be further from the Scottish highlands.' And you'd be right. However, this CR 3 Fey creature gets SO MUCH right. First of all it has Shapechanging abilities, some thematically appropriate Innate Spellcasting and the lore surrounding it says it thirsts for blood. Additionally, it has an ability called Captivating Dance which really brings the original tale to life and Thirst Kiss which acts as the vampiric bite we are looking for in a Baobhan Sith. So while the setting and lack of deer legs might feel less than ideal, with a few tweaks to the look and environment, we have a really good contender here and it actually really brings to mind Aicha Kandicha too!
Normally this is the point where I point you in the direction of a ton of Homebrew versions that various people have come up with, but in the case of the Baobhan Sith have found only one in Timothy Gonzalez's Book Of The Fey: A Fey Bestiary (page 10), which also has a Captivating Dance ability, and an interesting Dying Words ability that allows it to bestow a curse on the creature who struck the killing blow, and is a CR 2. I did also find a good contender in the form of the Leanan, in Nathan Haslé's Book Of Beautiful Horrors (page 66) which definitely has the correct look (FINALLY, a dangerous Fey creature with bovine legs), a Charm effect called Exhilarating Gaze, and a Kiss Of The Wild that certainly has some interesting effects but could easily be replaced with a Draining Kiss.
I think that the lack of stat blocks presents a great opportunity for people to really use their imaginations to take the features of the Baobhan Sith that they like and make their own. Would your version be vulnerable to damage from metal weapons in keeping with the lore that the Fey do not like iron? Would you take some elements from a Satyr (Basic Rules, page 152) stat block to bring in those deer legs? Perhaps you want to take elements of all of the suggested stat blocks here and combine them into something terrifying? It's up to you!
We can't have a Monster Monday post without some handy plot hooks to set you on your way! Here are some suggestions.
While travelling the party choose to take the road less travelled that might help them get to their destination quicker and they end up travelling along a wild mountain road. The fog begins to roll in and they see and hear shapes dancing and giggling in the distance.
While on their travels the party are invited into the home of a number of sisters, who converse and entertain them, spoiling them with food, dancing and a good time. More perceptive or investigative players may spot a few clues that hint towards something being off however.
The party member that ALWAYS asks for the nearest brothel whenever entering somewhere new is directed by a solemn local villager to somewhere outside of the village. A cave he says that is filled with beautiful women who will surely satisfy all of the party member's desires...
A woman appears to the party while travelling through the wilderness and seeks their protection or some kind of favour. If they agree and succeed she will grant them a small boon, but should they fail, attempt to seduce her, or disrespect her in any way they find themselves on the receiving end of a nasty bite.
A town are terrified as they rely on a particular trade route in order for their community to survive, however, men that have been travelling it are going missing. The women and children remained unharmed however. Reports of beautiful women with hooves instead of feet cause them to hire the party to investigate.
This week's post was a little more challenging as I had to do a lot more digging to find anything that resembled what I was looking for. Do you have any suggestions that may represent this creature better? Had you ever heard of the Baobhan Sith before reading this post? Let me know!