Monday 27 July 2015

Monsters from central Asian mythology 1: The Pig-Men

D&D has a proud tradition of creating monster races out of what, in their original mythologies, were unique creatures: thus Medusa (the woman) becomes medusae (the species), and so on. In these posts I'm going to be giving various creatures from Central Asian mythology a similar treatment.

In Tengri mythology, the god of the underworld is Erlik, who appears to shamans as a muscular man with the face of a pig. Erlik was the first and worst being made by the divine creator, and his botched attempts to make a world of his own are responsible for the existence of bogs and other wretched places in the world today. (If you've ever been somewhere that just seemed really, deeply bad, as though it had been put together wrongly on some kind of basic metaphysical level, it's probably because that's one of the bits of the world that Erlik got his hands on right back at the beginning.) He wants to create, but can bring forth only awfulness: diseases and darkness, gods of evil and chaos, and wicked spirits who deceive vision-questing shamans and lure them away from the truth. He was locked away in the underworld long ago, but those whose relatives die of disease still need to offer up propitiatory prayers to him lest he drag his victims down through the earth to be his slaves.

As Tengrism is a living religion, I would feel slightly uncomfortable putting Erlik himself into a game; it would feel a bit like introducing Lucifer as the Big Bad in a game-world which didn't otherwise make use of Christian theology or function according to the rules of Christian metaphysics. But just as I'm happy for games to feature demon-monsters based on Lucifer and his pals, so too with our pig-faced buddy Erlik. Thus: the pig-men.

I may also have been influenced by my love of Darkest Dungeon.

Pig-men look like men with the faces and teeth of pigs... sort of. Whatever put them together clearly didn't really know what it was doing, and they're twisted and misshapen in all kinds of bizarre and horrible ways. Sometimes their anatomy doesn't even make sense, as though their creator had seen the inside of a human body but didn't quite understand what all the different body parts were for: cut them open and you might find internal organs which don't connect to anything, or in the wrong numbers, or in the wrong places. However, even when the result should be totally fatal - like a pig-man with three hearts, none of which actually connect to his lungs - they still somehow manage to stumble on, as though powered less by flesh and blood than by sheer spite.

Pig-men live in bogs and underground caverns. They eat anything they can lay their hands on. They don't reproduce - they're all male, or at least male-ish - but somehow there are always more of them, so something down there must be making new ones from time to time. They are crude and savage, and their minds and souls have the same slapdash quality as their bodies; it's not that they don't have thoughts and emotions, it's just that their thoughts and emotions usually don't make much sense. If the mind of a human being is like a symphony of different musical instruments, all blending together to create the miracle of human consciousness, then the mind of a pig-man is like the noise made by a large angry toddler throwing those instruments on the floor and then kicking them. When they are encountered, use the following reaction table:

Pig-Man Reaction

The pig-men are hungry and will try to eat you. They're not particularly malicious about it, but they do want a meal and they'll keep hitting you with clubs until you stop struggling and let them have it. They might be dissuaded by a large offer of food. (Remember, for a pig-man, 'food' basically means 'any kind of organic matter'.)
The pig-men are feeling greedy and want you to give them something: food, slaves, shiny things, or whatever else they think that you might have and they might want. If refused point-blank they'll take what they want by force, but can probably be talked into accepting something different instead so long as it's presented as some kind of gift.
The pig-men are busy with some disgusting activity of their own, and will not bother you unless disturbed.
The pig-men are feeling curious. They want to know about you and all the objects that you're carrying; they won't be satisfied until they've actively sniffed, licked, chewed, and prodded everything they can get their hands on. The best way to deal with them is probably to persuade them that something else is even more interesting than you are.
The pig-men are feeling lonely, and will try to make friends. They will offer various crude, filthy, and worthless objects as gifts, and make nonsensical compliments (e.g. 'your hair is very hairy', 'I like how clever your thigh is') in the hope of winning you over. They will become angry and violent if their advances are rebuffed.

In a fight, pig-men attack in a chaotic mob, throwing rocks and whacking enemies with crude spiky clubs. They're very strong, but they're also cowardly, disorganised, and not very bright, and are thus usually dangerous only in overwhelming numbers. If they manage to get hold of guns they will have enough intelligence to aim and fire them, but not to reload them. (Some keep a luckless human captive for this purpose.) Their teeth and weapons are filthy, and their flesh is riddled with diseases: anyone wounded by them must make a FORT save or contract some kind of disease. Anyone stupid enough to eat pig-man bacon immediately contracts 1d6 different diseases with no save permitted. They can see perfectly in the dark.

Pig-Man: AC 13 (hide and blubber), 2 HD, +2 to hit, spiked club (1d6+1 damage) or thrown rock (1d3+1 damage), FORT 12, REF 15, WILL 16, morale 6, special attacks: disease. 


  1. If you don't mind, I might use some or all of this when I get around to making that Keep on the Borderland/House on the Borderland mashup I've been thinking about. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Heavens, no - borrow away! That's what it's there for, after all!