What to do with an Attic Whisperer?


Here's the Attic Whisperer, a creepy undead from the very first AP:


Now, the Whisperer is indeed creepy. Disturbing, even. But it's hard to see how it's a CR 4 opponent. Yes, it has a decent AC and 45 hp. But it has almost zero offensive capability -- its bite does almost no damage, just causes fatigue if you fail a save. (Okay, if it bites you three times you fall asleep. That's three rounds of the whole party whomping on it, since it has to get right up close in order to bite.) The aura of sobs is a weak debuff with a 10' range. Its Steal Voice ability is nasty against spellcasters, but again requires the Whisperer to get up close.

Thinking about this, I see a couple of options. One, the Whisperer can use a stolen voice to lure the PCs into trouble. The problem here is that Steal Voice only works if the PCs don't know about it and/or the PCs have split the party. (There's no use in imitating Bob the Wizard's voice if Bob is standing right here next to us.) So it would almost have to be imitating an NPC, which means you need to have some plausible reason for that NPC to be there. I guess you could just do a random child's voice, but that's only going to work once. (At best once. Most players, hearing a kid's voice in a dungeon or haunted house, will at least be thoughtful.)

Two, just play the Whisperer hit and run. Put it in a crowded attic or basement where it gets a circumstance bonus on its already high +17 Stealth. Have it sneak up, attack, then try to win initiative and run away. It does have +8 init, so this isn't completely daft. If it wins init, the players never even see it -- just "something bit you" and maybe a scuttling sound in the junk. It targets obvious spellcasters first, then fighter types, trying to wear the PCs down with fatigue.

The problem with this is that even at 1st level, lots of PCs have Improved Initiative and inits in the +6 to +8 range. Against 4 PCs, the Whisperer is likely to lose at least once. And once the PCs know something is up, they'll promptly buff and either run or start a careful search pattern.

So overall, it seems like the CR for this guy is a bit high; it's not a serious threat to any party above 1st level, and a group of four 3rd level PCs should be able to dispatch it with ease. It could certainly be creepy and atmospheric, mind, and could be a lot of fun as part of a set-piece encounter.

Am I underestimating this monster? Have others found it a dangerous opponent? Thoughts?

Doug M.

I haven't seen or faced one before, nor can I confidently say that I'm an experienced player or DM, however after reading it. The Attic Whisperer seems like something a DM would throw a few of along side of a stronger more offensive stealthy enemy. They seem like more of a supporter monster than something that would be the actual threat.

Fatigue and Sleep can be a pain, sleep being potentially deadly, but the steal voice could be worse if you can't call for help or notify other party members that some stealthy creepy creatures is about to devour them from behind.

I agree though, doesn't seem like its CR is quite right for what it does.

My belief is that Attic Whisperer was supposed to be pathfinderized version of Chucky the Doll.
However for editorial reasons something was cut off from the original creature and so the creature lost the oomph.

Anyway, there is a simple way to make it a fearsome CR4 creature:
- add Hide in Plain Sight (Su)
- add Fast Stealth rogue talent
- add Spring Attack feat

With hit and run tactics, the creature can work pretty good:
- Stealth +17
- dimly environment with lots of boxes


The way it reads to me is that its more for a BBEG for a first level campaign. A way for your new adventurers to gain a quick level while making a good name for themselves. It says the AW stays dormant until the appearance of a small child, so an npc approaches the group and asks them to help her find her baby, gather info let's them know the child has been spotted a few times around the old dilapidated mansion, throw in some dire rats, a giant spider, a skeleton or three and maybe a bat swarm just to keep them on their toes and by that time your mid cr 2 party ought to be pretty ready to have a difficult fight with the thing that is trying to steal little johnny.

Its not something that will work everytime or even something that could be used in alot of situations but the flavor of it really helps build a story, the party can then continue to try and find out what happened to the original child, how long ago, maybe there's a mother still looking for their own kid and has been for years. Play around with it you'll be able to come up with something.

Its not something very difficult but its powers are strange enough to catch the barbarian in a weird spot by not being able to rage, catch any and all spell casters in a tough spot by not being able to speak (and if they can't speak they can't cast) and the fighter will be taking a neg. 1 to hit against him every turn, and for a two weapon fighter at lowa levels that extra neg. To hit hurts. Maybe he uses his high stealth and the concealment of it being shadowy or low light illumination to keep your party just within his aura of sobs so you take the neg. To hit and damage while fighting some of the other baddies in the mansion.

I set up an orphanage, and put the attic whisperer out back in the "courtyard." It was a bit of a horror adventure, so I never really said what was happening when the party walked by the yard and a small child was crying and looking for its mother. A good character came to see what was wrong with it, picked it up and was bitten.

Nothing outrageously interesting, but it was entertaining when everyone was suddenly caught within the sobbing aura.

I think if I were going to put another in a game, I would probably put some animated objects, too: some dolls or other toys.

Well if you have someone who can be easily lured away from the group, maybe use the AW as a "sleeper cell". The party enters and old *blank*, and come across some rats, spiders, etc... They roll for perception. A player with a higher roll hears something in the distance but can't make out the details. Nothing else comes of this.

As they continue, send the player little notes with information likely to woo them into an isolated area. If they don't take the bait, go to plan B!

Plan B:
Have the party crossing a long rickety corridor/bridge/hallway. When they each cross the bridge (one at a time as it is very unstable), have each roll perception, and maybe acrobatics or something. The acrobatics is to represent their ability to cross safely, make it a low DC, the real goal is to obscure the perception check's true purpose. Make them think perception governs noticing any dangers to crossing (a rotted floor board, or crumbling column). Really, the perception check is to see if they detect the AW, who's creeping in the nearby shadows.

If no one beats it's stealth check, the AW cripples the bridge causing one player to fall into A *BLANK*. The Player can make some skill checks or saves, to mitigate the results of the fall, they may be rendered unconscious, the AW steals their voice. If they roll well, the player can beat the fall, encounter the sissy AW, slaughter it and then they have to figure out how to reunite.[/spoiler]

Once this is done, they can come across the BBEG.

Uh OH!:

Now for the BBEG, if the player managed to beat the AW, the party as a whole can fight the BBEG together, if the player was beaten by the AW/fall, the player is held captive in the BBEG's layer, and the players discover this when they enter the chamber. During the fight, the player can make skill checks, or saves, to break free and join the fight. etc...

Ta Da, a nice tidy compact adventure, using the AW in non-combat, but adventure impacting role :)

ruemere wrote:
My belief is that Attic Whisperer was supposed to be pathfinderized version of Chucky the Doll.

Don't see it, myself -- the AW is NE and creepy and sad. (In retrospect, it looks like a first draft of the NE daemons.) Chucky is CE and jolly fun. But I agree that it lacks "oomph".

ruemere wrote:

Anyway, there is a simple way to make it a fearsome CR4 creature:
- add Hide in Plain Sight (Su)
- add Fast Stealth rogue talent
- add Spring Attack feat

Any of these would be good. All three together might be a bit much -- there would be almost no way for a low level party to deal with this thing before it pecked them to death. At that point it would be on the high end of CR 4 IMO.

Doug M.

I agree that it works well in combination with some other nasty. Combining a Whisperer with some dire rats and/or a rat swarm could be fun. Or a ratling spellcaster -- ratlings make vicious wizards and alchemists, and they like the sorts of abandoned spaces where a Whisperer would be found.


A plain vanilla ratling is CR 2, which actually seems a bit low -- I mean, it can summon a CR 2 rat swarm as a daily SLA!

Doug M.

I think that much of the advantage of the AW is that not everyone who plays the game knows what it can do unlike say a shadow or orc.

Attic Whisperers always struck me as the quintessential 'evil?' undead that's just... the kid who died in alone in the burning orphanage. The babe who starved after his parents were killed by bandits.

Where it's like, one, relatively new, recently awakened Attic Whisperer could probably be defeated by a Diplomacy Skill challenge talking it down into letting the Psychopomps take it away, telling it about how nice the after life will be, maybe a commune spell to request that your deity send someone to entreat Pharasma on the child-soul's behalf.

But like, an old attic whisperer, that's been stealing people's children for centuries, one that's living like, in the basement of a Vampire Queen's mansion or a, ancient haunted house in a big city where kids can go missing and no one would notice, there's probably like, one Advanced Attic Whisperer and a dozen or more additional Attic Whisperers who are all the children the first stole away.

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I used it once, it had a sack of animated hands and amoebas. At first, it cried in a child's voice to lure in the pcs and then they listened to it. It then touched a PC and said "tag you're it!" and ran off. The pcs did not pursue it. What's interesting is that it stole the wizard's voice when he tagged him, so he couldn't cast a lot of his spells. Wizard got mad that his voice was gone and so he went after the thing. When it eventually came to blows, the whisperer unfolded his bag and let out the hands and amoebas. Now the party had to fight him and his hands/amoebas.

Overall it was an extremely fun fight for me to run, it's probably my favorite fight I've run ever. It was one of the few times I've creeped out my players and a couple of them went down a few times due to sleep and hp loss. Man that was a good time!

I actually found this article while researching the little buggers and while I find them delightful both in how creepy they are and the fact that we have a bard who would be forced to do a little more then stand in the back and play his flute. That being said they are pretty high level so I was planning on having them infesting the orphanage of a town they are about to go to. The town has been taken over by devils, using Book of Vile Darkness possession rules who are using it as a base for their new plans against humanity. When they arrived they took over the women at the orphanage and have barricaded the children inside who have started dropping like flies due to the already abysmal conditions there.

In effect they will function as distractions to the party, who are 8th level, and will be attached in some way to several devils in human hosts. Mostly I think they will pester the casters with extra saves and I intend to give them Spring Attack and more then likely Haste to supplement that terrible move speed, but I could definitely agree without some augmentation they are hardly CR 4, 3 maybe. Another thing to make them more potent would be to make them more durable, either through DR or all-out intangibility depending on how you like to flavor text them. If they have more time for attacks they could easily get a player to brick a saving throw.

Having read this series of posts I know want to make a side quest in my next game at lower levels involving a Ravid bound to an orphanage to animate the toys and possessions around the house and entertain a wizards children. The wizard commited suicide for a reason I have time to come up with, and his home was so remote that the Ravid watched the children die as well, turning into AW from the neglect. The session could be quite fun I think, the children strewn about the house in the rooms they've died but coming out to play whenever the Ravid animates something. The Ravid would animate a few objects in the main room as he saw them approach and then make his way upstairs to protect the majority of the children, leaving little encounters behind him. Include an Allip in the wizards study and some vermin monsters in the basement and it could be a very fun encounter, though they'd hardly be the boss again.

All just my two cents, some things aren't properly balanced though, just creepy and thematic :D

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