Wang Chi

Masque of the Red Death (Ravenloft)Campaign Setting Logo

Climate/Terrain:Any land
Frequency:Very rare
Activity Cycle:Night (see below)
Intelligence:High (13-14)
Treasure:R or equivalent
Alignment:Chaotic evil
No. Appearing:1
Armor Class:4
Hit Dice:4+3
No. of Attacks:1
Special Attacks:Silence aura, disease, curse.
Special Defenses:Hide in shadows, shape shifting, gold or +1 weapon to hit, cannot be truly destroyed while disguised. True name, sunlight.
Magic Resistance:See below
Size:M (5-7')
Morale:Elite (13-14)
XP Value:2,000

Contrary to Chinese folktales, the Wang-Chi (or doppelganger hound) is not a true demon, but is actually a supernatural creature from the Far Eastern fauna. In the distant past they could be encountered with certain regularity near small towns from India to China and Russia, always preying on the unwary traveler or farmer. They were dangerous predators then, but no more evil than a crocodile. Then, with the coming of the Red Death to the East, the creatures developed hunger for more power and the expansion of their hunting grounds, so they began to infiltrate Chinese society through its criminal world. Centuries ago, though, wise men found ways to stop their cunning attacks and the monsters were almost drive extinct, despite their powers and the capacity to live for hundreds of years. Hidden deep in the forests, the Wang-Chi became object of legends, until men all but forgot their existence.

These creatures, believed by many to be nearly immortal, used to prey upon mankind as naturally as a tiger would prey on deer. Now, they must rely on their wits in order to operate in such a low profile that they will not rouse any unwanted attention. The lack of respect for tradition and disbelief in magic and legend has helped the race grow a little through the centuries, but the Far East is still very rooted in old beliefs, so at least one Wang-Chi decided to move to faraway urban areas, where it could hunt without the problems its race still faces in China and India. That is how one of them ended up in San Francisco, arriving onboard a cargo shipment.

Even among modern men, there are those who dream of controlling legendary enchanted creatures like the Wang-Chi, and using them to achieve their own selfish goals. But no one can dominate the Wang-Chi, and woe to the fool who thinks otherwise! Even then, there are some who believe such creatures to be emissaries of the Ancient Gods, and that, if appeased, they can bring fortune and longevity. Mr. Tang was one such individual, fascinated with the legend of the long-lived Wang-Chi and convinced that it might teach him how to achieve near-eternal life. His dream was cut short when he faced the monster. Now the creature roams about Chinatown, preparing itself to find a proper mate.

In its true form, the Wang-Chi looks like a large black hound that seems to be made more of living darkness than of flesh. It is fully corporeal, however, and should not be mistaken for a common shadow. Its mouth constantly drips diseased blue foaming saliva and its eyes glow with orange light. In animal form it cannot speak, but in human guise it can speak any language it has learned (see below).

Combat: The Wang-Chi has a primary bite attack with its jagged fangs, which inflicts 2d4 points of damage and exposes the opponent to the effects of the creature's diseased saliva. Anyone bitten must save vs. poison or become infected with a disease that robs the victim of one point of Strength per day until cured. Victims without Strength scores have cumulative -1 penalties to attack and damage every day. At 0 Strength the victim dies. The effects of multiple bites are cumulative.

Twice per day the creature can surround itself with an aura of magical silence, which extends to 10' in all directions. The aura lasts for three turns, and can be normally dispelled. The Wang-Chi must wait for at least a full turn before it can summon the aura the second time. The creature is also skilled at hiding in shadows, with 90% chance of success (50% if exposed to any light source brighter than a torch or a light spell). It is also immune to sleep and charm spells, and makes all saving throws as an 8th-level soldier.

The Wang-Chi's most treacherous ability, however, is the power to imitate one of its past victims, either human or canine. The highly intelligent Wang-Chi can learn up to three human languages after about one to three months of careful listening, and usually it keeps taking victims who speak the same language for a while before trying another. It can change its shape in a fashion like that of a Ravenloft doppelganger, but is limited to imitating any victim killed in the past thirty days. The transformation takes only a single round to complete, and the new likeness is nearly flawless. This masquerade can last for up to another thirty days, and within this period the Wang-Chi can change its shape to look like other victims, although that weakens its mimicry.

Instead of having the ESP of its humanoid cousin, the Wang-Chi has another insidious ability. When it kills a victim and eats the head, it absorbs part of the victim's memories, in order to help it simulate his or her general manners. Proficiencies, roguish skills and spellcasting cannot be learned through such methods, however, so it prefers to take victims who are not specialized in any craft, except perhaps giving orders to other people. The Wang-Chi must kill and eat the head in order to effectively gain access to the victim's memories. Comatose or otherwise living victims are of no use regarding this aspect. Heads from victims dead for more than one hour are also useless.

The drained memories erode rapidly, making the false person look senile or slightly absent-minded. As the days pass, the person becomes increasingly incoherent and gibbering. At the end of thirty days, the stolen memories collapse altogether. By that time, however, the Wang-Chi will most likely have changed shape again. Every time the creature chooses to change between human shapes, the change accelerates the memory-losing process by one day, so the monster prefers to stay in the same disguise for as long as it can. Changing between human and animal form does not affect stolen memories. When changing to another dog's shape (also a past victim), the Wang-Chi does not gain any memories, and uses this disguise only as a last resort, because it definitely prefers to stay among mankind as an equal, seeing dogs as little more than dumb cousins and second-rate food sources.

In either shape, only golden or magical weapons can hit the creature. If attacked while in human disguise, it can activate its Silence aura and try to use any weapon at hand. Usually the chosen disguise will be that of a wealthy and influent person, so heroes will most probably have to deal with bodyguards, relatives, minions and servants before they ever reach the monster. The Wang-Chi will avoid changing shape in public until it is no longer possible. If reduced to 0 hit points while disguised, the Wang-Chi's true nature becomes clear: it immediately changes back to its shadowy true form, healing 2d4×10% of all suffered damage. This regenerative change can happen only once per day. Unlike most shapeshifters, the Wang-Chi can change forms while moving (at half rate), but it cannot attack while transforming.

When the Wang-Chi reverts to its true form, the change prompts a fear check to anyone witnessing the transformation for the first time. For those who are familiar with the shape previously chosen by the monster, the sight of a friendly grin changing to a hideous canine snarl may prompt a horror or even a madness check.

Only after the Wang-Chi has assumed its true form it can be destroyed, either by impalement or beheading by a weapon of +1 or better enchantment or a weapon made of pure gold. Even if beheaded or impaled under disguise, the creature reforms - in this case it must immediately change shape. Direct sunlight harms it violently, inflicting 1d6 points of damage per round, but only if the Wang-Chi is in its true form when exposed. The Wang-Chi knows better than to take chances, though, and avoids sunlight as much as it can. When under direct or clearly reflected sunlight the Wang-Chi cannot change shape (unless reduced to 0 hp), nor can it use its Silence aura. The Wang-Chi can use both of these powers normally during the daylight hours; they just need to avoid sunlight to succeed.

If the creature's true name can be somehow found and spoken aloud in its presence, the creature must immediately change to its true shape and cannot take another form for one full hour. It will try at any cost to prevent anyone from learning its true name, or from saying it aloud. Perhaps that is the reason for the Silence power. The beast's true name can be discovered either through investigation, psionic or magical means.

Sometimes, a dying Wang-Chi can focus all its hatred and malice against its attacker and cast a powerful curse. This is not a common occurance, but if the creature is allowed time (at least one full round) to concentrate before the final blow is delivered, the one who landed it must save vs. spell or be subject to a curse as described in Domains of Dread. The DM should judge the type and severity of the curse. The Wang-Chi cannot concentrate properly if it receives continuous attacks until it dies, but a single round is enough to cast the dying spell. The creature will then growl the curse in an audible but barely intelligible phrase just before it dies. It might say it in one of the tongues it has learned, but usually it will choose that which it has been more accustomed to (normally an Eastern language). Trying to understand the words and their meaning in order to lift the curse might offer the DM very interesting side plots, perhaps leading the adventurers to their next mission.

Habitat/Society: Wang-Chi are mostly solitary creatures, especially now that they have nearly been driven extinct. They are also very territorial and one Wang-Chi might even help heroes find another, just to get rid of it and accumulate its territory. These creatures are quite bold and certain of their superiority over mankind, and that might be their main weakness. While a Wang-Chi will not endanger its master plan because of foolish presumption, whenever it finds worthwhile antagonists, it might take a few risks and even leave some clues behind, just to prove its superior intellect.

Wang-Chi prefer to dwell in the outskirts of human society, usually taking the place of guild leaders or black market dealers - people that might easily end up dead or disappear without compromising its disguise very much. Although originally coming from a Far Eastern land, it can adapt to almost any urban area. The creature can easily appear on Gothic Earth (particularly any large city's Chinatown), Ravenloft (Rokushima Táiyoo or, if the DM allows seafaring trade, virtually any coastal domain) or any other campaign setting, preferably one with some contact with exotic oriental cultures.

Ecology: The Wang-Chi are exclusively carnivorous, seeing human (or humanoid) flesh as their favorite meals, or canine flesh as an inferior food source. Their favorite body parts are the head and brain. While a Wang-Chi may live for approximately 100-400 years, it can only reproduce once every ten years, and then only with a suitable human female. From such a union one Wang-Chi is born in animal form, always at night. The female must be held fast while pregnant, for the metabolic changes are too strong and painful for her. The gestation lasts only six months, and the mother suffers an agonizing death in the end, as the Wang-Chi literally eats its way out of the womb. Once free, the monster usually devours the remains of her corpse and hides.

The infant Wang-Chi can defend itself with a bite that inflict 1d4 poins of damage. By the end of the first year the creature's saliva will be diseased. Its shapeshifting and silence powers come with maturity in three years, and until that time it looks like a black hound. But since the first kill the monster is already able to get a glimpse of the victim's memories - usually, the first memory will be the image of its father, as seen by its mother. Its father may take a base care of it during these first years, but will send it away as soon as it has developed its shapechanging powers. If father and son do ever meet each other again later, it will most probably be as hated enemies and rivals.

by Luiz Eduardo Neves Peret