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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Modern Monsters

I'm a fan of the urban fantasy and modern horror genres. That would include (in my book) shows like Supernatural and books like Inner City: Gargoyles. If you're a fan of that kind of work in those genres, today's table is for you. And even if you're not a fan, you can always drop a monster into your modern espionage game for a Halloween session* or tweak it a bit and add it to your fantasy setting.

Spring-Heeled Jack: A leaping legend from suburban London, the spring-heeled jack is so named for his incredible jumping ability. This figure is often described as wearing a dark coat or cloak, or even as having black wings. Some legends give him sharp claws, glowing red eyes, and even the ability to breath fire. Other legends mark him as much more human, saying that (other than his hideous wings) he looked very gentlemanly or that he could speak proper English. In the early twentieth century, spring-heeled jack made the leap from the England to New England as rumors spread of sightings along the north Atlantic coast.

This creature could make an appearance in an urban fantasy campaign as an antagonist who leaps into the second or third stories of homes and terrifies inhabitants before leaping out again. Perhaps it feeds on fear or even simple mischief, since there are few accounts of spring-heeled jack doing anything truly monstrous.

Servant of Sobek: Sobek was a god of fertility, kings, and charms in ancient Egypt, but he still influences the modern world through his servants. Sobek often took the form of a man with a crocodile head, and his servants take the full form of crocodiles. Every year there are sightings of alligators in the sewers of large cities; to the untrained eye, an alligator and a crocodile can look similar, and, indeed alligators are native to North America, where most of the sightings take place. Really, though, these are the servants of Sobek, using the sewers to move from place to place with ease as they go about the tasks set for them by their god.

The servants of Sobek work best in an urban fantasy campaign that features other mythological deities, especially other ancient Egyptian gods. The servants of Sobek follow the mysterious orders of their god, but they occasionally attack a lone human wandering in the utilities system. Rarely, these creatures may even enter a home through the sewage system, if their master so commands it.

Vulpine Spirit: These ghostly foxes are native to North America and are quite different from the kitsune spirits of China and Japan. A common figure among sleepwalkers, lucid dreamers, and those with seemingly prophetic dreams is the appearance of a shadowy foxlike spirit. The vulpine spirits are not violent themselves, but they are frequently a portent of impending danger. Sightings of vulpine spirits are virtually impossible to confirm because those who claim to have seen it are usually dead within a week.

The vulpine spirits fit into urban fantasy campaigns with other ghostly spirits, but they could also make an interesting detour from physical monster hunting. If the vulpine spirits themselves are not dangerous, why do they portend death? Perhaps they are themselves fleeing a more powerful and dangerous devouring spirit, and they appear to dreamers either to plead for help or to offer sacrifices as a distraction to the devouring spirit that chases them.

*Yes, I know I'm writing this in May, but it'll be Halloween once a year, every year, for as long as this site exists.

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