Making Monster Matter: Make Your Players Wail Like A Banshee, With A Banshee!

“A thick carpet of fog dances atop the darkened moors. The light of the waning moon gives the mist a pale glow. In the distance, your destination-the ruined tower-stand dark and foreboding against the night sky. A glimmer below catches your eye, something glinting beneath the shroud of fog. You bend down, only to discover a simple comb, made of pure silver laying upon the damp grass. You pick it up to inspect it more closely.

The stillness of the night is shattered as an ear-piercing, mournful howl. In the window of the tower, you see the ghostly figure of a woman. She leaps from the window and glides upon the night air, her translucent form hurdles toward you at unnatural speed. The phantom opens her mouth, and the last thing you hear is the dreadful wail of the banshee.” 

Ah, the banshee. She is a bitch. Whether your play Pathfinder, D&D, or any other assortment of RPGs, this haunting Irish lass is never welcomed with open arms, save for the occasionally masochistic player that gets his dice off on horrible things that will kill them in horrible ways. I won't deny, sometimes I am that player.

 "Please sir, can I have another?"

But, like most angry bitches from Ireland, she is absolutely delightful in the correct circumstances. In the case of the Game Master, that is whenever he dusts this tried and true monster off to come out and play. While she might lack the pure brute power of other classic creatures like dragons and ogres, she more than makes up for it with her special abilities, which are, in a word, deadly as fuck (yes, I know that was three words, and no, I am not sorry).

Wail Watching
Whichever game you play, the banshee's main mode of attack, and primary source of player dread, is her Wail. In Irish folklore, the mournful wail of the banshee could stop a man's heart, and deliver him into the hands of the reaper. This has translated perfectly into tabletop gaming, with her cry dropping even the heartiest character to 0 hit points, if not outright killing them.

Suffice to say, she is not the life of the party, and certainly not yours. 
"But she looks ready to party.. on our corpses"
A Little Background
Irish myth states that the original banshees were fairies, though the modernized RPGs have altered that slightly to undead. This is likely because banshees have always been associated with death. Their wail was the woeful lament of fallen members of prominent families.

The modern day banshee haunts its location like a ghost, often dwelling in a former home, a site she recalled from her life, or a place where she was sure to ensnare new victims. Rarely do they stray from this spot, often luring foolish or lost folk to them.

While once beautiful, our bonnie lasses are now fuggly beyond words. How fuggly? To look upon them is to know true terror, and most creatures run the hell away. So, think a Kardashian without make up, about to start some drama. 

 "Scary, no?"

How Do We Use Her?
Our floating fem fatal is primed to rain down pain upon your players, but, because of her charming personality and well developed social skills, she is often found alone, like me on a Saturday night, wailing at the wall and weeping uncontrollably. Because of this, she is often horribly outnumbered. This in no way means she is outclassed though. Our banshee is one resourceful gal. What she lacks in numbers, she more than makes up for in the ability to float through freakin' walls!

That's right, our sinister siren is incorporeal, so use that to your advantage. Set up an encounter in an area with plenty of walls or rooms. She can implement hit and run tactics, gracefully gliding from room to room through the, a movement that many, if not all, of your player characters are unable to replicate (save for a roid'd out barbarian hopped up on PCP; player character potions). Use the crude map below as an example.

She is encountered in Area 5. Once she sees th assembled party, she unleashes her mournful wail. She decides to play with any members fortunate enough to withstand her assault, and attacks with her ghostly hand and flies through the North-Western wall to Area 2. The door to that room is locked, so if there isn't a character in the party that can bust through a wall, the gang will have to resort to either picking the lock, or busting down the door. This gives either your lock-picker or your muscle-bound brute a chance to shine.

"A subtle art."

Once the door to Area 2 is open, the battle is joined again. Our Banshee shows off her “pretty” face, trying to evoke a sense of terror from the group. Whether it works or not, she vanishes through the wall to Area 1. The fun part about this door is it's trapped. Another chance for your trap disarmed to shine.... if in fact they are looking for traps in the heat of the battle. 

This is the Banshee's turf, and she plans on using ever bit of it to her advantage, and so it should be with any monster encountered in its lair. If someone were to enter your home with the intention of killing you and taking your stuff, you would want to defend yourself like the kid from Home Alone.

Wow. Adventurers are just home invaders. 

"Anybody home?"

Anywho, our bodacious banshee continues to drift from room to room, attacking when she can, and using the surroundings to aid her in avoiding attacks. This could easily be scaled to a larger, more dangerous area, like an abandoned mansion, an evil temple, or a subterranean crypt. The chase will draw the combat out longer, and remain etched into your players' minds for awhile. And really, isn't that what it's all about?

The Silent Village
Ah, but it could be so much worse. Imagine, if you will that the home our banshee haunts is broken down stone by stone and used to build a village nearby. Now the banshee has a larger area to cover, as her "home" is all over the damned place. How would she react to the dismantling of her beloved house/prison?

Picture in your mind an adventuring party, tired after a long day of travel. As the sun is beginning to set and the discussion arises of where to set up camp, they see signs indicating a town is just over the next hill. Happy to spend a night in a warm bed with a belly full of hot food and cold ale, they hurry, only to find the village seemingly deserted. The village is nice, with plenty of stonework adorning each home and building.

The atmosphere grows as they discover the villagers, one by one, dead. A look of horror etched into their faces from their final moments. Every last person, save perhaps one home on thee edge of town, made of wood instead of stone.

As the sun vanishes over the horizon, the forlorn cry of the banshee rolls across the village. Now she has a whole village to work with, and if done right, it could be a long night...

The Banshee can be a fun, interesting encounter for any party, and it is diverse enough to allow it to be a minion, a guardian, or even the big bad if you desire. Her legend has withstood the test of time, and for good reason. A banshee is instantly recognizable and, when encountered, comes per-packaged with its own sense of dread.

Have you used or encountered one of these feisty undead ladies? Share your tale in the comments below.

Cover your ears, and keep up the good fight,
+Ed The Bard 

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