This hideous shape has the head of a feral elk with jagged teeth and sharp antlers. Its humanoid legs end in blackened, burnt stumps.
AC 32, touch 18, flat-footed 23 (+9 Dex, +14 natural, –1 size)
Speed fly 120 ft. (perfect)
Str 29, Dex 29, Con 31, Int 26, Wis 20, Cha 24
When a wendigo uses its nightmare spell-like ability, the victim is also exposed to wendigo psychosis.
Three times per day as a standard action, a wendigo can emit a forlorn howl that can be heard up to a mile away. Any who hear the howl must make a DC 28 Will save to avoid becoming shaken for an hour. Creatures within 120 feet become panicked for 1d4+4 rounds, and those within 30 feet cower with fear for 1d4 rounds. This is a mind-affecting fear effect.
The save DC is Charisma-based.
When a victim’s Wisdom reaches 1, he seeks an individual of his race to kill and devour. After completing this act, the afflicted individual takes off at a run, and in 1d4 rounds sprints up into the sky at such a speed that his feet burn away into jagged stumps. The transformation into a wendigo takes 2d6 minutes as the victim wind walks across the sky. Once the transformation is complete, the victim is effectively dead, replaced by a new wendigo. True resurrection, miracle, or wish can restore such a victim to life, yet doing so does not harm the new wendigo.
The save is Charisma-based.
If a wendigo pins a grappled foe, it can attempt to wind walk with the target by using its spell-like ability—it automatically succeeds on all concentration checks made to use wind walk. If the victim fails to resist the spell, the wendigo hurtles into the sky with him. Each round, a victim can make a new DC 23 Will save to turn solid again, but at this point he falls if he cannot fly. Eventually, the wendigo strands the victim in some rural area, usually miles from where it began. A creature that wind walks with a wendigo is exposed to wendigo psychosis.
The save DC is Charisma-based.
Image used by permission
of Purple Duck Games.
Environment any cold
Beings of Ancient evil, wendigos haunt the minds of mortals, driving them to desperation and, ultimately, cannibalistic madness. They enjoy whittling down prey before they strike, trailing victims for days, even weeks, while plaguing their journeys with nightmares and foul weather.
Tribal humanoids sometimes worship wendigos as gods, bringing them live sacrifices or attempting to appease the creatures by engaging in ritual cannibalism. They mark a wendigo’s territory with fetishes and dress in the furs and hides of whatever animal it most closely resembles. Wendigos take little interest in the practices of their worshipers, and view them only as an ample supply of victims.
The warmth of a campfire and shelter from the cutting wind are little protection against some of the things that lurk in the dark, isolated places of the world, where sustenance is scarce and hospitality nonexistent. High passes, forlorn tundra, trackless primeval woodlands-it is within these desolate places that one is most likely to encounter a wendigo, an evil spirit that preys on explorers and hunters when resources are running low and true desperation is setting in. While the flesh-eating beasts of nature might simply assault unwary victims head-on, the wendigo is a horror that turns the hunter into the hunted, plaguing its prey with bone-chilling nightmares at night and hazy visions of cannibalism during the day. The horrid images brought on by a wendigo’s curse cause the victim to slowly lose its grasp on what is right and wrong, ultimately inspiring the cursed individual to succumb to its terrible hunger pangs and feast upon its own allies in a gory act of shameful cannibalism.
Wendigos are little known outside the myths of certain indigenous tribes of particularly isolated regions, far from the security and hospitality of cities. The lands of the wendigo are where folk struggle to survive on a daily basis with already meager supplies stretched thin, where a single turn of bad luck can mean the difference between survival and starvation. It is under these circumstances, when fortune has turned against a lone hunter, isolated homestead, or lost wagon train, that wendigo psychosis-the insanity-inducing curse that forces innocents to indulge in the basest acts in order to survive-most often rears its vile head and draws otherwise normal people into acts of horrific desperation in which they must feed upon their own kind in order to survive.
The cannibalistic act brought on by wendigo psychosis is the last stage of the curse, at which point the victim flees straight into the sky at an unearthly speed-its legs burning away into jagged stubs-and becomes fully inhabited by a wendigo spirit, the body now only a shell for the hungry beast. A wendigo’s curse is not the only means of this transformation, however, as in some cases individuals who dwell in highly civilized lands but still partake in eating their own kind’s flesh also find themselves making the metamorphosis into wendigos. In societies where cannibalism is not seen as a taboo, individuals rarely if ever become wendigos, and these cultures generally have no history of encounters with such monsters. Scholars speculate that wendigo spirits require the perpetrators of the cannibalistic acts to be as shocked and shamed by their own actions as their victims are.
While wendigos are widely believed to come from somewhere outside the Material Plane, none can say where exactly these horrors originate. Their unworldly powers and animalistic appearances inspire some to believe that wendigos are actually fallen agathions from Nirvana; such claims are quickly dismissed by scholars, though they themselves can offer only a few alternative origin theories. Most regard wendigos as spirits from the darkest reaches of the multiverse, much like devourers and other monsters of mysterious purpose. What appearance these disembodied spirits may possess while within this nether region is a mystery to most, as no one has ever documented seeing a wendigo spirit not already residing in a material host. Because of this elusiveness, many folk on the outskirts of civilization regard wendigos simply as manifestations of mortal corruption, disembodied ideas rather than actual creatures.
A wendigo spirit only possesses a living host after the creature has been afflicted with wendigo psychosis. This curse is typically brought about by another wendigo who has touched a victim’s dreams or has dragged the creature into the sky with it. Occasionally, a particularly unlucky individual may contract wendigo psychosis simply through unfortunate circumstance, when it must perform gruesome acts of cannibalism in order to survive. When a creature has been afflicted with wendigo psychosis, the spirit of a wendigo is attracted to the creature to await its final act of desperation: devouring the flesh of one of its own kind, usually a close friend or loved one. Once the victim falls to this level of madness, it makes its aerial sojourn through the sky, during which time its feet are burnt away into charred stumps from the speed of its passage, and the victim undergoes the full transformation into a wendigo; the original victim ceases to exist, its body mutilated and its soul sent to the Great Beyond, and the wendigo spirit inherits the body as a new husk with which it can interact with the material world. A victim who dies of wendigo psychosis can only be brought back to life with powerful restorative spells such as miracle, true resurrection, and wish. Bringing a victim back to life in this way may restore the original creature, but the wendigo who exploited the psychotic individual yet remains in its weathered shell, which is only a pale reflection of the mortal body it once was.
When a wendigo assumes the body of a mortal, it warps the tattered corpse into an image representative of its own twisted desires and horrid imaginings. The hands turn into bloodstained claws, the flesh grows a layer of matted fur, and the head transforms into that of a grotesque, rabid animal, typically a wild creature native to the area where the mortal died. Thus a wendigo only barely resembles the original mortal creature whose body it now inhabits, the beast having shed all of its personal relics and clothing in exchange for its feral, nightmarish visage.
Once a wendigo has manifested in physical form, it begins to stalk all who enter its territory, either consuming its prey to sate its own endless appetite or inflicting its transformative psychosis upon victims to spawn more of its kind. While wendigo spirits are definitely not of this world, in their material forms they are native to the Material Plane and thus must eat in order to survive. When intelligent prey is scarce, a wendigo will indulge in its bestial desires and hunt weaker animals to feed upon. A wendigo is constantly wracked with intense hunger pangs, manifestations of its ravenous greed that are only temporarily relieved by feasting on such creatures that know fear. It is for this reason that wendigos prefer to feed upon humanoids, magical beasts, and any other creatures that know to be afraid of the dark and shudder at the sound of howling winds.
Because wendigos must eat to survive, it is curious that the monsters ever use their victims to create new wendigos rather than feeding upon them. Scholars disagree on why wendigos perform these base rituals, though it is speculated that it may simply be due to some animal instinct to reproduce. The method by which a wendigo chooses which victims to eat and which to transform is seemingly either random or incredibly complex, but some evidence suggests they prefer to inflict their psychosis on individuals who would feel the most shame after having eaten their comrades. Whatever the reason, when a wendigo chooses to transform a victim rather than devour it, the newly formed wendigo invariably retreats from the territory of its progenitor in order to claim its own hunting grounds. Wendigos are well aware of the dearth of food resources available to them in the desolate places of the world, and as a result are loath to share their hunting grounds with powerful predators of any kind.
Considering the selfish atrocities wendigos represent, it is unsurprising that these horrors are not particularly social creatures. Once a living creature has died from wendigo psychosis and its shell has been taken over by a wendigo spirit, the newly formed wendigo seeks out a distant hunting ground to prowl for food. A wendigo typically claims a territory in the unforgiving wilderness that can encompass hundreds of square miles, usually near a caravan route or far-off destination for bullheaded hunters and treasure hunters. In these desolate lands, wendigos set up numerous traps for travelers, creating labyrinthine trails to get lost in or blocking trade routes and creating false detours that lure the unwary into treacherous realms.
While most wendigos take on purely predatory roles, a rare few have been known to instead take on something very similar to custodial roles, guarding their self-claimed territories against the perversions of civilization. While this may seem a noble act at first glance, such wendigos retain their gruesome appearances and murderous behaviors, and are far from druidic crusaders. Speculations vary on why exactly wendigos might protect certain lands in this way, as they have no special connection to nature nor do they require a pristine wilderness in which to dwell. The most common belief is that custodial wendigos simply possess a territorial instinct to prevent others from despoiling what is theirs, if only so that they can despoil it themselves in their own time and fashion.
Wendigos are powerful creatures that can be used to inspire terror in PCs throughout their entire adventuring careers. The myths surrounding such horrid creatures are usually only told in whispers, and commoners’ inordinate fears of such creatures can create great foreshadowing opportunities for later in the campaign. The wendigo hunts of particularly superstitious settlements (in which a small town or village might gather enough gold to recruit brave adventurers to perform the task for them) often turn out to be driven by more mundane causes of local mayhem, such as gnolls. Yet there is truth to the rumors of the animal-headed beasts, and mid-level PCs might encounter the remains of a campsite attacked by a wendigo, or perhaps an isolated outpost where one of the inhabitants finally succumbed to wendigo psychosis, cannibalizing her comrades in order to survive a particularly harsh winter. In cases such as this, confronting the cannibalistic victim of wendigo psychosis can be just as powerful an encounter as facing the wendigo itself, as such a victim makes for either a terrific roleplaying encounter or perhaps a formidable opponent on the edge of a complete mental breakdown. Such a character might tell the PCs of the voice on the wind that spoke to her, or of her dreams of flying high above the snow-laden forest with her feet ablaze. Inspection might show severe burns and charring about her otherwise unshod (albeit frostbitten) feet. Having already committed the act of cannibalism, this individual may be on the verge of fully succumbing to wendigo psychosis, confronting the PCs with the decision to either kill her (something she perhaps begs them to do), cure her with powerful and quickly distributed magic, or watch her complete the transformation and race away into the night sky.
At high levels, the PCs are better equipped to deal with the threat of a wendigo head-on. A wendigo with the young creature template can prove to be a suitable challenge for PCs from levels 14-15 crossing a hazardous mountain pass, especially if the nightmare-inducing monster has stalked and taxed them for several days beforehand, while higher-level PCs might be able to take on a dust wendigo in arid desert lands. The effects of wendigo psychosis can be dramatic to a party without the proper means of dispelling the curse, and such tension will often be more than enough incentive for PCs to hunt down the perpetrator of the psychosis in order to slay it and rid themselves of the plague’s source. If an allied NPC is stranded in the wilderness, the threat of her transformation into a wendigo can prove a dire circumstance to urge PCs forward. Regardless of the exact circumstances, the final encounter with a wendigo should be a dramatic climax to either a campaign or a lengthy adventure, the monster’s influence proving a thorn in the PCs’ sides for some time and inspiring countless acts of cannibalistic betrayal, leading up to the final confrontation.
Wendigos do not ordinarily keep treasure, and regard anything other than a feast of mortal flesh as holding little value. To a wendigo, the only worthwhile possessions are those that might aid them in their eternal hunt, such as lures of powerful artifacts or relics. More often, however, wendigos simply leave the fortunes of their prey alongside the victims’ scraped bones. Nonmagical personal items are usually damaged or destroyed in the violence of a wendigo attack, as the beasts have been known to delight in destroying small buildings or conveyances to swiftly terrify and murder the creatures within; any items that survive such onslaughts are generally utterly ignored by the wendigo without a second thought. Particularly keen-minded wendigos may think to take coins or gems and use them to create winding trails of fortune for foolish prey, and more than one treasure hunter has met his death thanks to such traps.
In the rare instance when a wendigo still wears some valuable personal item from before its transformation (such as a necklace, ring, or amulet), it is only because the buffeting winds and erratic speeds of wendigo flight have yet to knock it loose. On more than one occasion, though, the former identity of a slain wendigo has been gleaned from just such a grim memento.
Though wendigos are most often encountered in the northern climes of the world, these horrors of desperation and hunger can be found in virtually any area of desolation where starvation leads folk to partake in the taboo act of cannibalism.
The wilds of the surface are not the only places where travelers can become trapped and resort to their bestial natures to survive. Legends tell of the spirits of lost explorers or trapped miners who haunt deep mine shafts and tunnels and tap the walls to herald collapses and other catastrophes. These wendigos keep their cold subtype and gain the earth subtype as well. Their damage reduction is changed to 15/adamantine and magic, they gain a burrow speed of 20 feet and tremorsense 60 feet, their rend ability does Dexterity damage instead of Charisma damage, and they gain the use of the following spell-like abilities: 3/day–transmute rock to mud, transmute mud to rock; 1/day–earthquake.
In the desert, where water is as rare as food, unwary or unfortunate travelers may find themselves raking the hot sands for anything that can pass for edible. It is during these scorching days and freezing nights in the vast desert that dust wendigos inhabit creatures that succumb to wendigo psychosis. These foolhardy, jackal-headed beasts combine the ravenous savagery of wendigos with the stinging, wind-blown sand of desert wastelands, and plague the dreams of desert nomads and even resident jann or other genie-kin. These creatures lose their cold subtype, instead gaining the fire and air subtypes. In addition, their regeneration is halted by cold damage instead of fire damage, they deal fire damage with their bite and claw attacks instead of cold damage, and they gain the use of the following spell-like ability: 3/day–sirocco.
In the vast expanses of inky blackness between the stars, the area known as the Dark Tapestry, there wait immeasurably patient wendigos of dark origins, inhabiting the bodies of cannibalistic victims of interstellar travel gone awry. Void wendigos float in a stony stasis awaiting the rare traveler to happen upon them and inspire them to wake from their frozen sleep to once again feed and spread madness. Void wendigos possess lifesense 60 feet and can use the following spell-like abilities: 3/day–greater teleport; at will–statue.
In real life, the wendigo is a cannibalistic, sometimes gigantic, spirit creature from the myths of the Algonquian peoples of the northeastern United States and Canada, a sinister counterpoint to the benevolent aspects of Gitche Manitou, the Great Spirit. It has appeared in fiction writings in many forms, most famously in the 1910 Algernon Blackwood short story, “The Wendigo.” In Cthulhu Mythos, the wendigo was introduced by August Derleth as Ithaqua, a Great Old One, and the mythological monster has also been featured as a supernatural beast in Marvel Comics. The wendigo even makes an appearance in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary as a guardian spirit near an ancient Micmac burial ground.
The wendigo has been traditionally associated with winter, famine, and desperation or mental illness leading to cannibalism, and has also been seen as a vengeful guardian of nature, protecting the wilds from the destructive incursions of humans. These aspects are portrayed in films such as Ravenous and The Last Winter.
So powerful was the wendigo mythology among its adherents that wendigo psychosis has been recognized by some psychologists as a culture-bound syndrome affecting people who suffer from an intense craving to consume human flesh and a fear that they will literally turn into wendigos from doing so, with some rare cases even ending in the voluntary execution of the afflicted to prevent the anticipated transformation. Reported cases have declined substantially since the turn of the twentieth century, and there is some question among researchers as to the validity of diagnosis in the earlier documented cases. Regardless of the outcome of such studies, the pervasive belief that something in the northern wilds once caused cannibalism and atrocities among numerous peoples of that region cannot be entirely dismissed.