“Wer hat Angst vorm schwarzen Mann?” German childhood song

Sing that ditty with the usual singsong of the creepy kid in the movies to get the full flavor. “Who’s afraid of the Dark Man?”

The critter for one of our recent adventures, the Black Man is based on Germanic myth and which has many analogues in European myth — the “Gray Man” or Fear Dubh of Scotland is very similar, as is the “Faceless One” of Welsh lore. This bogeyman roams the childhood imagination from Romania to Ireland, and was used by parents to scare kids into behaving. He’s under your bed, in your closet, peering through the heating grate, moving through the darkened forest, following you across a lonely moor, looking for those disobedient, mean, willful children.

Here’s the Welsh version, which is close to the description of the thing we used:

Hush, my child, do not stray from the path,

Or The Faceless One shall steal you away to Fairieland.

He preys on sinful and defiant souls,

And lurks within the woods.

He has hands of ebony branches,

And a touch as soft as silk.

Fear The Faceless One, my child,

For he shall take you to a dark place.

And then  what shall become of you?

No one knows, so be good, my little one…

Oh No! He is here to take you away!’

I added the to this already awful creature, which inhabits shadows and can move through the a water aspect — combining the Dark Man with the usual shape-changing water-bound horror like the Nix or Nie in Germany, the Voyanoy of Russia, or the Neck of the English. this was partly from having watched the creepy-as-shit trailer for It while running the game. so I mixed a bunch of the usual horror themes and threw in the murdering child rapist who was executed by the townspeople and buried in the refuse outside of town trope.

This presented an interesting challenge mechanically. I wanted the unstoppable terror vibe for the monster, which means you don’t want the characters toddling in and wiping the floor with the baddie in a few rounds. The wight didn’t quite hit the mark, nor the shadow, and neither incorporated the water features, so here’s our monster for your use:

DIE SCHWARZE MANN

This wanderer came to [enter town] and soon after children started turning up dead. Captured in the act, the townspeople executed this awful person and buried him without rites in their refuge mounds outside of town. Over the course of months, the spirt of the dead man regained strength and began to look for the same prey as in life, those disrespectful, curious, naughty children, and lure them to their deaths. He does this by surprise, or using the bodies of their dead friends or family to draw in the victim. He can do this by reanimating the recently dead, which he keeps well-preserved in his lair — a body of standing water like a pond — or imitates their voices.

It is a creature of darkness, not shadow, and often appears as a dark, slender form with long, branch-like arms that can grow in length. The creature will often rise silently out of bodies of water, or simply stretch out of the shadows for its prey. It is a glistening black, with vaguely human features, and when it speaks (which is rare) it is a whisper of a familiar voice.

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It collects bodies and souls, and the dead it keeps in its lair can be reanimated as zombies (standard stat block, save they have illusion with allows them to appear unmolested and alive).

Medium undead, neutral evil (CR 3 — 700xp)

Armor Class: 12     Hit Points: 45     Speed: 30′ land, 50′ water

STR: 15   DEX: 14   CON: 16   INT: 10   WIS: 13   CHA: 15

Skills: Intimidation +6, Persuasion +5, Stealth +6

Condition Immunities: Exhausted, Frightened, Poisoned;, Damage Immunities: Necrotic; bludgeoning, piercing ,and slashing from nonmagical or silvered weapons

Damage Vulnerability: Radiant

Senses: Darkvision 120′, passive 13

Languages: those it knew in life

Traits: Amorphous — can move through small spaces; Illusion — can mimic the form and sound of a person it has seen or killed. Wisdom save DC12 to see the true form; Shadow  and Water Movement: The creature can move from one shadow or standing body of water to the any other it can see; Shadow and Water Stealth: In dim light, or when using a body of water, it can Hide as a bonus action with an extra +6. However, bodies of water it inhabits exhibit a strange lack of reaction to wind and are non-reflective; Sunlight Sensitivity: Disadvantage on all tests when exposed to sunlight.

Actions: Multiattack: It can make two attacks per turn, and can add its life drain to both; Life Drain: +4 to hit, reach 5′, one creature. Hit 1d6+2 necrotic. Target must succeed on Constitution DC13 save or lose the damage. Lasts until after a long rest. Target dies if the effect reduces hit points to 0. Target can be reanimated at the will of the Dark Man and is under its control. It can control up to 12 zombies at a time.

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