I recently became rather intrigued by Bloody Mary folklore. I’ve always been a fan of undead creatures. In particular, I’m fascinated to learn about the reality of humanity’s fear of the dead. Pop culture is so inundated with movie monsters these days that it’s easy to know everything about zombies of vampires without ever learning the reality which inspired the fantasy. In fact, it was the trailer for the movie “Paranormal Activity 3” which first got me interested in this folklore. I find it hilarious that a movie trailer failed to convince me to see the movie, but succeeded in motivating me to do some reading. Even if it was just Wikipedia, and a handful of other websites.
Each of us is a student of popular culture, whether or not we realize it. But there’s so much more to these creatures. Historical information, which filmmakers never passed down to us. Did you know that while Catholics in Western Europe took a slowly-decomposing corpse as a sign of sainthood; Catholics in Eastern Europe took it as a sign that the corpse was waking at night as a vampire? It’s true. Likewise, Zombies originate from Afro-Haitian superstitions, where “sorcerers” would use psychoactive chemicals to place a victim in a highly suggestible state, then order that victim to do their bidding.
Hoping to find some similarly interesting revelations for Bloody Mary, I did some looking around. I haven’t found a ton of solid information on the tale’s origins–it seems to be a relatively recent, and particularly fractured piece of folklore. However, the sheer volume of completely different accounts of this mirror-dwelling creature make it a curiosity to me. And as I looked for additional sources of information, I began to wonder if Mary had ever been converted into a monster for gaming. I flipped through the various incorporeal undead in my Bestiaries and Monster Manuals, but didn’t find anything which seemed specifically based on her. Since I find the folklore so fascinating, I thought I’d go ahead and create my own.
As an aside, in my study of Bloody Mary, I learned a word which should be very useful to game masters and world crafters. Catoptromancy; Divination by use of mirrors, or other reflective surfaces.
At first all that can be seen is the dripping blood, falling apparently from thin air. Once one looks upon vengeful specter’s crimson form, the black pits of its eyes widen, and it gurgles a curse from a blood filled mouth.
Bloody Avenger; CR 10; [Undead(Incorporeal)] [Urban] [Any Climate] [Nocturnal]
CE Medium Undead
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60ft; Perception +12
AC 18, touch 18, flat-footed 14 [10 + Dex(3) + Dodge(1) + Incorporeal Deflection(4)]
HP 90 (9d8 + 45)
Fast Healing 2
Fort +3 Ref +6 Will +12
Defensive Abilities Incorporeal
Immunities Undead Traits
Speed fly 30 ft. (Perfect)
Melee Lacerate Face + 14 (4d6 + 4)
Special Attacks Death’s Gaze, Share Guilt, Expose Guilt, Bloody Chains
Str — Dex 16 Con — Int 6 Wis 15 Cha 18
Base Attack +6/1CMB+9 CMD 19
Feats Improved Initiative, Dodge, Ability Focus(Death’s Gaze), Iron Will, Toughness, Natural Weapon Focus (Lacerate Face)
Skills Fly (+12), Intimidation (+21), Perception (+12), Stealth (+20)
Environment Most commonly in urban homes, but they can strike wherever a mirror is nearby.
Activity Cycle Primarily nocturnal, but do not tire, and can function wherever there is low light.
Invisibility(Sp) A bloody avenger may cast Invisibility (as the spell) at will.
Catoptromancy(Su) A bloody avenger can enter any mirror, and exit through any other mirror on the same plane. Broken mirrors do not affect the creature’s ability to travel through them, however, a mirror covered with a cloth cannot be traveled through. The creature can do this while invisible. Note that this ability works only for mirrors, surfaces which are incidentally reflective cannot be used for this, or any other mirror-related ability of the Bloody Avenger.
Lacerate Face(Ex) Bloody Avengers are compelled to destroy their victim’s faces. It is not entirely clear why they do this, but it is surmised that it is based on the creature’s intense feelings of guilt, and a desire to destroy its own identity. This is a melee touch attack which deals damage equal to 1d6/2 hit dice. A Bloody Avenger’s charisma modifier is considered a weapon bonus for the purposes of this attack, and can be added both to the attack and the damage roll.
Death’s Gaze(Su) 3 times per day, as a standard action, a Bloody Avenger may show a target opponent their own death. This is the death which they are currently fated for, though their fate is not immutable. However, the individual who sees this image of their death will know, inherently, that it is not an illusion. The fear this causes is profound. The target becomes immediately Panicked, but is entitled to a will saving throw [DC 20 (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha + Ability Focus)] to be only shaken. Targets can repeat the will save on each turn until they succeed. The Shaken condition lasts 3 rounds. In order to be affected by this attack, the target must look either at the Bloody Avenger, or at any mirrors.
Share Guilt(Su) Once per day a Bloody Avenger may pass through a target creature by moving through a square which that creature occupies. The target is entitled to a reflex saving throw [DC 17 (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha)] to take an immediate 5-foot step out of the way. If the Bloody Avenger successfully passes through the target, then for the next 24 hours, any damage inflicted on the Bloody Avenger will be inflicted on that target. This effect is treated as a curse, and any ability which removes curses will end this effect.
Expose Guilt(Su) Once per day, a Bloody Avenger can select a target. As a standard action, the Bloody Avenger shares the target’s greatest unknown sin to all of that target’s allies within 60ft. Any moral boosting effects which that character granted to his companions ceases to function, and all opponents within 10ft of the character take a -1 penalty to all rolls. This effect lasts for 24 hours.
Bloody Chains(Su) Once per day, a Bloody Avenger can cause four blood-soaked barbed chains to emerge from any mirror within 60 feet, and grapple with a target. The chains are treated as having the Grab ability, so they do not provoke an attack of opportunity when they attempt to grapple. The chains have an effective CMB of +14, and can extend a maximum of 30ft from the mirror. The chains immediately begin attempting to draw a grappled target into the mirror (requiring a successful grapple check each round to move the target at half of the chain’s speed of 30). Each of the 4 chains has hardness 10, hp 5, and a break DC of 26. Each chain destroyed reduces the chain’s overall CMB by 2.
If the chains successfully move a target to a space adjacent to the mirror which they came out of, then on their next turn they may attempt a final grapple check to pull their target into the mirror. (This is considered a hazardous location, granting the target a +4 on their grapple attempt). If the target is successfully drawn into the mirror, then they fall out of another mirror somewhere on the same plane. This mirror could be elsewhere in town, in another nation, or even on another continent.
Death Rattle(Su) Upon its destruction, a Bloody Avenger lets out a piercing wail of anguish. Characters within a 60ft radius of the destroyed Bloody Avenger, who are not wearing protective ear coverings, take 10d6 sonic damage from this wail.
Distraction All Bloody Avengers are created from a death which resulted from the death of someone else–whether or not they are guilty of it. They are fixated on that event, and seek indiscriminate revenge for it. However, if they are presented with someone who reminds them of whomever’s death caused their own, the Bloody Avenger may become distracted. For example, a mother who went mad and died after the passing of her child may, as a Bloody Avenger, become distracted by a young child, believing it to be her own for as long as her distraction is not interrupted.
Summoning If an adventurer looks into a mirror and speaks the true name of a Bloody Avenger three times, then confesses to causing the death for which the Bloody Avenger is seeking vengeance, then the Bloody Avenger is immediately transported to that mirror.
Forced Medium Bloody Avengers can be used to discover secrets which may otherwise be impossible to discern. Once one is encountered or summoned, the party or individual who encounter it must not meet the Bloody Avengers eyes, nor harm it at all. For 1 minute (10 rounds) the Bloody Avenger will attack the party normally, however, unless the party meets the creature’s eyes or attacks it in return, it cannot use lethal force. After a minute has passed, the Bloody Avenger can no longer attack the party. The party can, at this point, ask to speak with a specific dead person. They need not know the person’s name, but must know something about them. “The person who designed the ruins of Aomur,” or “The little boy who was killed by Joey Grills four years ago” would be sufficient. The Bloody Avenger will then retrieve the soul of this person with unerring accuracy, assuming they are dead, their souls still exist, and the phrasing of the question did not specifically exclude the intended person (Such as if Joey Grills killed a girl).
The soul is then compelled to answer any questions the party has for it. This bypasses any of the normal restrictions on the Speak with Dead spell. Three conditions cause this effect to end: 1) if the party meets the eyes of, or attacks, the Bloody Avenger, then the dead spirit disappears, and the party must combat the Bloody Avenger normally. 2) If the party tells the spirit it can go, then the Bloody Avenger will also excuse itself by exiting through the nearest mirror. If the mirror has been covered, the Bloody Avenger will attack the party. 3) after 10 minutes, the Bloody Avenger is released from its compulsion, and will release the spirit and attack the party.
Background A Bloody Avenger is a very particular manner of ghost. In life, the creatures who eventually become Bloody Avengers all suffer greatly from the horrible death, or loss, of someone dear to them. Such as a mother whose child goes missing, a man whose mother is murdered, or a child who watches another child fall down a well. The exact manner of the loss is irrelevant, so long as the person feels guilt over the loss. It matters not if the person in question is actually responsible in any degree for the loss, so long as they feel guilt over it.
That guilt must then drive the person to their own death, or dominate the rest of their life. To use the above examples, if the mother who lost her child went mad, and eventually committed suicide, that would qualify. If the man mentioned above had murdered his mother himself; and was then tried and executed for the crime, that would qualify. Even if he denied his guilt, it is likely that he still felt that guilt on some level. Lastly, if the young child lives a long life, yet is always haunted by feelings of guilt for the other child’s death, then even dying of old age would not save him or her from qualifying. Any of these people might potentially rise as Bloody Avengers.
Bloody Avengers remember very little of their lives. They wander, only half aware of the world around them, while the other half of their attention is constantly reliving the moment which caused their guilt. This leaves them angry and violent, and poised to attack anyone who disturbs them.
- The Undead Type is described on page 309 of the Pathfinder Bestiary.
- The Incorporeal Subtype is described on page 312 of the Pathfinder Bestiary.
- The Incorporeal Trait is described on page 301 of the Pathfinder Bestiary.
- Information on the Bloody Mary legend drawn from the Wikipedia entry, and the Snopes.com entry (oddly enough. Do ghost stories really need to be verified?)
- Images for this post taken from a remarkable fan-video for the Lady Gaga song “Bloody Mary”