While passing a lake
The party spots a blonde half-elven girl, gorgeous and naked, standing thing deep in the frigid waters and looked dazed. Her skin is pale, her lips blue, and her long hair is snaked with pond-weeds and algae. She mumbles something about a tipped boat, and repeatedly states how cold she is, her striking eyes beseeching the nearest male (or receptive female) character for comfort. This sad, lost soul is a Rusalka – a reanimated young woman who was the victim of drowning, and is now cursed to drag her would-be rescuers down to a similar fate.
Any who approach within arm’s length she will reach out to and hug for warmth, crying into their shoulder and apologizing as she drags them under the water with a vise-like grip.
Though a monster, and very dangerous, the Rusalka poses little threat in open combat, and as such does not require a full stat block, but a few rules to keep in mind in case they come up:
- AC 10 + player level, FORT 10 + player level, REF 10 + player level + 2, WILL 10 + player level +3
- The Rusalka is treated as a minion, having only one Hit Point. If she is destroyed, but her soul has not been properly laid to rest, she will reappear in 1d10 weeks, ready to claim another sympathetic passerby.
- If threatened, the Rusalka sinks into the water and vanishes, refusing to reappear to any of the PCs who were present again.
- The Rusalka will not chase down a target, but any victim who comes near arms reach will be caught by her (she lashes out lightning quick, no attack roll necessary). The PC caught by the Rusalka is considered grabbed and restrained. At this point, the Rusalka has supernatural strength, and no amount of pulling or aid will detach her as she drags the victim below the water to drown them. The Rusalka will let go if she is destroyed by violence. Clever players who attempt to use some means of escape (tying a rope around their waist) will find that the rope snaps, or if an appendage is bound, that extremity might even be pulled off!
- When adjudicating this creature, keep in mind the Rusalka is bound to drown her victim, and is given inexorable strength by the curse that keeps her inn this world. There is no malicious intent.
- Rules for suffocation are on page 159 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Finishing the Unfinished Business
The players have the opportunity to set the Rusalka’s cursed spirit free and letting her move on to a natural death. Let the player’s creativity win out here, even if their resolution is simple and requires little work – if it rings true, it is the right answer. They are doing an act of kindness for a pitiful girl who had no intentions of becoming a monster. Some suggested resolutions to the curse are listed below:
- Using a skill challenge to convince the Rusalka she has passed and must move on of her own accord. Keep the complexity on the lower end, ideally 1 or 2. Suggested skills: Diplomacy, Insight, Nature, History, Religion, Arcana, Bluff.
- A divine character could use their Channel Divinity power, in conjunction with a Religion, Hard check to purify the girl’s spirit and end the curse.
- Swimming to the bottom of the lake, a PC would find a few pieces of the Rusalka’s jewelry from when she was alive, still mostly intact. These might jolt her into the realization that she has not passed on properly, or provide a bonus in any skill challenge made to do the same.
- The Rusalka appears in many forms in various culture’s folklore, and interpreting her as a spirit rather than a corporeal undead is also a valid approach. In this case, showing the sad creature her own remains would convince her that she is dead, and allow her to pass on.
- Finding any of the girls still-living relatives and bringing them here would also help the Rusalka to move on. A mother, sister, or perhaps even a husband or fiance. The girl may have drowned a few years ago, or her last kin might be long grey and wrinkled and still troubled by their lost loved one. It might be particularly poignant to have a family member offer themselves up as a sacrifice, embracing the Rusalka and giving her the warmth and comfort she needs as they both vanish beneath the rippling lake forever.
- Though undead, the tragic nature of the Rusalka and her attachment to a body of water is much in affinity with the hearts of many fey creatures. If the PCs could convince a dryad, nymph, woodland spirit or other potent fey to take pity on her, they might release the girl of her curse.
Possible Rewards and Experience
It is possible that as the PCs turn to leave, they hear a tiny metal clinking, and find a piece of jewelry the Rusalka owned in life, now enchanted – a sign of gratitude for lifting the curse.
This Incident should be worth EXP equivalent to a single monster of the player’s level +1.