Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taste Test: Batibat (Night Hag)

(Taste test is a type of article that focuses on some of the fluff that have already been conceptualized for the Buan Campaign Setting. They will mostly be pure flavor, though the occasional mechanical bit will be included as well. Any material shown here is not final to the campaign setting, so feel free to add in comments and suggestions!)

Throughout the mythology of Kalupaan, the image of an old hag is a familiar one. Wizened old crones who use the knowledge of the years for terrible deeds exist. And they appear in many forms: Vermin lords known as the mambabarang whisper to insects and compel them to plague their enemies. Manananggal witches, eternally youthful as they are, reveal the true wrinkled and ugly nature of their demon-bound souls when they segment themselves and fly in the night. Warlocks and witches abound, and even in the priestly caste of the babaylanes, who are vessels of the divine, there are those who become harlots to the darker gods in the process of their long lives.

These creatures may appear otherworldy, but they are just as often mortal creatures as they are actual fey creatures known as hags. The susceptibility of mortals, especially humans, to temptation leads many to this dark path. Because of this, hags, while common, are mostly overlooked. Even in isolation, they are often thought of as depraved but ultimately mortal. Because of this, the batibat, the night hags of the fey realm of Kalikasan, are unique.

Image not owned by Nosfecatu. Source from iaaaaaaaaan
Dream Gluttony

The batibat is the complete reversal of the emaciated visage of most hags. Whilst their sisters concern themselves with the acquisition of magic items and souls, the batibat seeks to consume the hopes and dreams of its victims. It targets those who find tremendous joy in life - the vigorous, the boastful, and the gregarious. After a night of revelry, the batibat visits the sleeping victim, sitting on him and choking him to death through its Dream Haunting ability. As the victim dies, the batibat feeds, consuming his soul which adds to her massive girth. (To bring such a slain person back to life, the belly of the batibat must first be sliced open, disgorging the numerous souls that it has consumed in a whirlwind of white mist.)

Because it consumes its victims souls instead of keeping them as currency as most night hags do, batibats in general tend to be more powerful than their thinner sisters. Likewise, it lacks the ambition of her sisters, being simply content with its wanton consumption of joy. This is not a point in their favor, however. If left unchecked, they can become vastly powerful. It can then cause a chain of death through numerous nearby islands. Those that are left unaware of its presence often come to the mistaken conclusion that some kind of plague has befallen the island and their neighbors. When the resulting mass fear of death takes root, the desperate attempts to cling to life abound. The batibat then visits those who are most afraid to die. To the creature, the loving life and desperately holding on to it are one and the same.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the ones who finally discover the presence of the batibat are the same ones that made the most number of preventive measures to ensure that the "plague" does not affect them. In the instances where they are found and defeated, many of the superstitions that their last intended victim eventually become well-known as wards against the hags. But such precautions, from the sprinkling of salt and the hanging of garlic on windows to the wiggling of the victim's toe as the attack commences, are all utterly useless against the batibat.

Lairing in Huts

Like many fey creatures, the batibat can use ancient trees as a Fey Crossing to the realm of Kalikasan. They seldom choose the balete tree, however, for they are common abodes of the tikbalang and the kapre. When it has found one tree that is suitable for its abode, it enchants it with a ritual that allows a pocket realm Faerie realm to exist within the plant. It then uses that crossing as its lair.

The magic that binds the pocket realm to the tree is powerful enough to survive the death of the tree, usually when it is unknowingly cut for the purpose of using its material for mortal dwellings. The only setback for the batibat is that it now shares its lair with others. This will be summarily fixed by slaying the inhabitants in their sleep. Such a hut is magically protected from natural decay. If the batibat is not slain, the hut will remain even as the tropical climate decays the other structures in the town whose inhabitants it has killed. When a hut is encountered seemingly in the middle of nowhere, beware a dormant batibat.

Notes.

  • Originally, I wanted to stat up the batibat as a succubus that has grown obese from the life force of its victims, forcing it to adopt a different approach to its hunting. But as I read more and more into the lore of the batibat, I realized that its niche is already adequately covered by the night hag with only minor refluffing required. Why stat up something if it already exists? The fact that the upgunned dream hags are level 19 controllers (the exact level and role that I intended for them) helps.
  • After realizing that batibats were hags, I looked into these creatures that I've largely ignored throughout my stint as a DM. I've realized that they easily fit the Buan campaign setting as the batibat and other witches. 
  • An interesting common aspect between the batibat and other hags is their tendency to have hut-like lairs. Like Baba Yaga's dancing hut (see the November 2011 issue of Dungeon Magazine), they can be small from the outside but be a complete dungeon inside.
  • Specifically, batibats share the cultural space held by the night hags (Monster Vault) and their advanced versions, the dream hags (Monster Manual 3). Just make them supernaturally heavier and tie in the dream Haunting power with a fluff of sitting on its victims, and you're good to go.
  • Alternatively, I have this idea of large hags that literally sit on its victims. Level 18 large fey brutes, anyone? If there is an interest in it, I may go back and stat it up. :-)