A Caroling Horse (Of Course. Of Course.)

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy holidays, one and all! Whether you're celebrating the season, stuck working, or enjoying business mandated days off, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say we could all use a bit of festive cheer this year. Winter traditions range from the sweet to the downright malevolent (check out Krampus in our upcoming Bestiary 3), but by far one of the strangest is the Welsh tradition of the Mari Lwyd. This spooky, shrouded creature has a horse's skull for a head. It shows up either during Christmas or the New Year—depending on how much the local church freaks out about its presence—and carols at the doorways to peoples' houses, demanding entrance using Welsh rhymes. Those who let the Mari Lwyd inside must offer the creature hospitality, usually in the form of alcohol and cheese. (Golarion scholars are still debating the absolute definition of “cheese”, but the general rule is that if you have to ask if something counts, it doesn't.)

A Mari Lwyd, made from a horse's skull placed on a hobby horse stick. It wears a white cloth shroud wrapped around its neck and body.

Mari_Lwyd, A contemporary Mari Lwyd. Image Public Domain, from Wikipedia

Of course, most people don't want to give up their holiday booze and cheese to a creepy skull-horse! Those who seek to deny the Mari Lwyd entrance must sing back, telling it to leave. The festive Welsh rap battle, known as Pwnco, continues until one party runs out of ideas and is defeated. Should the Mari Lwyd lose, it will be on its way. If it wins, the household invites it in, but only—most critically—after the occupants make it promise to behave. Otherwise, the creature parties too hard, wrecking the place in a joyous frenzy.

Many Pathfinder monsters are wicked or hostile, but the Mari Lwyd is simply out to enjoy the season. Are your characters and players up to challenge this frightening being to a contest of rhymes? Or would they throw a Kraft Single at it and hope it goes away?

Mari Lwyd — Creature 11

Uncommon, CN, Large, Fey

Perception +21; darkvision
Languages Common, Sylvan
Skills Athletics +23, Diplomacy +19, Intimidation +21, Performance +21, Thievery +20
Str +7, Dex +3, Con +5, Int +4, Wis +2, Cha +6
AC 30; Fort +24, Ref +21, Will +18
HP 190; Immunities persistent wassailing

Mostly Harmless The Mari Lwyd is out simply to enjoy the season. The Mari Lwyd's attacks have the nonlethal trait when attacking creatures, unless those creatures attempt a hostile action on the Mari Lwyd first.

Persistent Wassailing The Mari Lwyd cannot be disrupted by common means. It always knows if a building is truly unoccupied or if the occupants can speak and hear and are merely refusing to sing back, and it is immune to silence and similar effects of up to 5th level.

Speed 50 feet, swim 30 feet

Melee [one-action] jaws +24 (magical, reach 10 feet), Damage 3d10+10 piercing

Melee [one-action] hoof +24 (agile, magical, reach 10 feet), Damage 3d8+10 bludgeoning

Pwnco [three-actions] The Mari Lwyd begins a rhyming contest, requesting entrance to a closed home, tavern, or other building that has occupants who can respond in it. It rolls a Performance check. Before the Mari Lwyd's next turn, one occupant must respond to the Mari Lwyd’s request by spending three actions to Perform a song of their own. The DC for the respondent’s song is equal to the result of the Mari Lwyd’s Performance check. If the building is occupied and no one responds, this has the effects of a critical failure.

Critical Success The respondents win the Pwnco, causing the Mari Lwyd to depart.

Success The response is good, and the Pwnco continues. The Mari Lwyd must use Pwnco again on its next turn. It takes a –2 circumstance penalty to its Performance check or increases its current circumstance penalty by 2, whichever is worse.

Failure The respondents lose the Pwnco! The Mari Lwyd demands hospitality, causing the door to unlock and open and any barriers at the door to move out of the way. If the door is magically sealed, the Mari Lwyd attempts to counteract the effect (counteract level 11, counteract modifier +22). If no occupant of the building offers the Mari Lwyd alcohol or cheese before the start of its next turn and demands that it behave itself, the Mari Lwyd can use Festive Rampage at the start of its next turn.

Critical Failure As failure, but due to the ineptitude of the response, the Mari Lwyd counteracts magical effects with a counteract level of 15 and modifier of +30, and it must be offered twice as much alcohol or cheese.

Festive Rampage [free-action] Requirements The Mari Lwyd enters a building after winning the Pwnco, and was not both told to behave itself and offered alcohol or cheese; Effect The Mari Lwyd flies into a destructive celebratory rampage. As long as the Mari Lwyd remains in the building, it gains resistance 10 to all damage and its strikes ignore 10 Hardness. The Mari Lwyd loses the benefits of this ability if it attacks a living creature, and typically smashes furniture instead.

To every one of you, all the best.

Eleanor Ferron
Pathfinder Developer

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Tags: Paizo Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I recently learned about this concept, and I adore it. Great to to see it. happy Holidays!

Liberty's Edge

Happy new year to all :-D

Quite an interesting creature.


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This is cute. Would make for great inclusion in a festive oneshot :>


Krampus! in March... :(

Envoy's Alliance

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Cool, but I think any creature based on Welsh anything should include a pronunciation guide. Irish is bad enough.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

"Persistent Wassailing"

What a MONSTER!


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Pwnco!!

It's really a Welsh word. I'll be hornswoggled.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Timingila wrote:
Cool, but I think any creature based on Welsh anything should include a pronunciation guide. Irish is bad enough.

As someone trying to (casually) learn Irish, agreed.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Does that mean if you lose the Epic Carol Battle you got pwned by a pwny? :>


Please tell me that a illustration and stat blocksl of the Mary Lawd are included in Bestiary 3... (although according to the text and the lack of illustaration it isn't)


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Timingila wrote:
Cool, but I think any creature based on Welsh anything should include a pronunciation guide. Irish is bad enough.

For the most part, I agree.

Good thing that Eleanor Ferron supplied the link to the Wikipedia article source, which does include it's pronunciation & a whole lot more! (^_')=b

Carry on,

--C.

PS: I like this new creature for Pathfinder! :D


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What’s wrong with a bunch of extra vowels and consonants between friends. English is bad enough!


Now that seems quite a festive creature to run. :)
Fey definitely should have fun stuff like that.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
LandSwordBear wrote:
What’s wrong with a bunch of extra vowels and consonants between friends. English is bad enough!

At least it isn’t French, whose spelling rules I suspect were created by grifting monk scribes that were paid by the letter.

Marketing & Media Manager

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Note: In an effort to bring you free game content to inspire your adventures, some blog content is not Lost Omens canon. We don't have plans to publish them or covert them to PDF. We might. We might not. This one is written with skilled whimsey. Cheers!


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One of the least useful gates to keep in canon, however, is "something whimsical absolutely does not exist in the First World".

Grand Archive

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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
AnimatedPaper wrote:
LandSwordBear wrote:
What’s wrong with a bunch of extra vowels and consonants between friends. English is bad enough!
At least it isn’t French, whose spelling rules I suspect were created by grifting monk scribes that were paid by the letter.

As someone that natively speak French: I never looked it up to see if it’s true, but that’s the common story that is shared around these parts, yeah... (many of these extra letters where actually culled out with time, though)

Contributor

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Heh. Great minds think alike. I wrote up a different version of the Mari Lwyd for the Book of Beasts, currently featured at Brown Geeks. For 5e, but the illustration still fits.

https://thebrowngeeks.com/book-of-beasts-mari-lywd/

Liberty's Edge

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"(Golarion scholars are still debating the absolute definition of “cheese”, but the general rule is that if you have to ask if something counts, it doesn't.)"

Isn't that the RPG definition of Cheese? Can't believe I missed it on the first read.
:-D


There is a similar creature in Finland called "nuuttipukki" - back in the day, young men dressed as goats (inverted fur jackets, birch or bark masks and goat horns) would travel from house to house and demand food and alcoholic drinks from their hosts. If they didn't get any, they'd make mischief in retaliation (there's tale of breaking down fences to let cattle escape into the woods).

They usually made lots of noise as they traveled, though they weren't the singing type like the Mari Lwyd; instead they'd just rant and roar and basically be super scary.

Wayfinders Contributor

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Eleanor, this is the most delightful creature ever. I totally want to have a bard battle with it.

Hmm

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