High atop a desolate hilltop, on a night not fit for man or beast, a baby wails. The cry pierces the heart — alone, bereft, unwanted, and abandoned. The child cries, inconsolable. At first, the babe appears normal, except perhaps a cruel wound where its smallest finger has been cut away, but then it changes, swelling large as a boulder, becoming cold as the grave, hot as the desert, or wet as the bog, shifting into a wild beast or predatory bird, or sprouting the fangs and claws of the hungry dead …
Unwanted, Unmourned, and Nameless. The utburd — Norwegian for exposed — is the ghost of an unwanted babe, or occasionally a toddler or very young child, abandoned to die in the wilds. The utburd cannot rest until its soul is given a name and its remains are given funerary rites.
Near is Far, Far is Near. The utburd’s cries and wails sound loud when it is far away, yet soft and muted when it is near.
The Form of Death. An utburd’s powers vary depending on the final cause of its death: smothering, strangulation, freezing, heat, drowning, wild beasts, or starvation:
- The Weight of Death. The ghost of a babe that was smothered, this utburd initially appears no larger than a newborn babe. Yet if picked up and carried, it will increase in size and weight until it is as heavy as a boulder or granite slab and just as big, crushing the life out of its victim.
- The Grip of Death. Strangled at birth, this utburd has an amazingly strong grip for a baby, clutching on to its victim’s neck and not releasing until they are dead.
- Cold as the Grave. Killed by winter and hypothermia, this utburd radiates the chill of the grave, sucking heat and life from those around it.
- Hot as the Desert. Death from heat exhaustion produces an utburd that kills with heat.
- Wet as the Bog. Drowned in a swamp or well, this utburd drowns others in turn.
- Shape of the Beast. Killed by a wild beast, this utburd can then take its form. Wolves and owls are most common, but possibilities are as varied as predators.
- Insatiable Hunger. Dying of hunger and thirst, this utburd can never be sated, and if it cannot drink milk, it will feast on blood.
Death for Death. An utburd’s first victims are usually the parents who abandoned it, but after they are dead, it turns its rage to the rest of the world.
Wanted, Mourned, Named. For all its anger, an utburd is a victim, and will not attack unless shown cruelty or indifference. If treated with kindness, an utburd will do its best to point the way to its mortal remains. Once its remains are found, the utburd longs for them to be given funerary rites and mourning, but these will be incomplete without giving it a name — either a new name in the case of a babe never given one, or its own name guessed or rediscovered in the case of an older abandoned child. Once given these, an utburd can rest in peace.
Thralls of the Wicked. The most dangerous utburds are those abandoned babes discovered shortly after their deaths by some nefarious necromancer or hag, both stealing a pinky finger from the remains. With that finger in a necromancer or hag’s possession, separate from the utburd’s body, the babe can never be given a proper funeral and the necromancer or hag can keep the utburd as a familiar, having it perform tasks such as theft or murder in exchange for toys or sweetmeats and empty promises to give the utburd what it truly craves: a funeral and a name. However, such utburds still crave true kindness, and if given even a taste, will beg the benefactor to obtain their fingerbone from the hag or necromancer by any means possible so the utburd can be laid to rest.
Note: Evil necromancers sometimes create utburds for their own nefarious ends. The create undead spell can be cast to create 1 utburd instead of 3 ghouls.
Tiny undead, neutral evil
Armor Class 13 (Natural Armor)
Hit Points 46 (7d8 + 14)
Speed 10 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
16(+3) 10(+0) 15(+2) 4(-3) 8(-1) 6(-2)
Damage Resistances Necrotic
Damage Immunities Poison, Cold
Condition Immunities Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 9
Challenge 2 (450 XP)
The Form of Death. The utburd has one of the following features, depending on the nature of its death.
- The Weight of Death. When the utburd is picked up, it uses its reaction to grapple a foe and magically increases in size for 1 minute. While enlarged, the utburd is Large, triples its damage dice on Strength-based attacks (included in the Crush damage below), and makes Strength checks and Strength saving throws with advantage, including grapple checks. If the utburd lacks the room to become Large, it attains the maximum size possible in the space available. While enlarged, the utburd crushes a Medium or smaller creature grappled by it. The crushed target must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw at the start of each of the utburd’s turns or take 10 (2d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage. The utburd can only crush one creature at a time.
- The Grip of Death. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage, and the target is grappled (escape DC 16). Until this grapple ends, the creature is restrained, and the utburd can’t grip another target.
- Hot as the Desert, Cold as the Grave. The utburd emanates the freezing cold or blistering heat it felt when it died. Any creature that starts its turn within 5 feet of the lesser utburd in the aura must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or take 7 (2d6) cold or fire damage.
- Wet as the Bog. The utburd grapples a target and vomits water into its mouth. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 3) bludgeoning damage. If the target needs air to breathe, it begins drowning immediately. The target can vomit up the water as an action on a successful DC 13 Constitution saving throw.
- Shape of the Beast. As a bonus action, the utburd can transform into a dire wolf or giant owl.
- Insatiable Hunger. The utburd has a nasty bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 15 (2d10 + 4) piercing damage.
Recurring Curse. When the utburd is reduced to 0 hit points, it becomes translucent and fades away. Unless its remains are found and the remove curse is cast upon them, the utburd reforms near its remains 7 days later.
Designer Notes: Sadly, abandoned newborns still occur, so it is unsurprising that tales of their ghosts are told around the globe. Known as the utburd in Norway, myling in Sweden, tiyanak in the Philippines, toyol in Malaysia, plakavak in Herzegovina, and many other names around the globe. I compared the various myths for common themes and haunting details to create this version.
Lore: Kevin Andrew Murphy
Statblock: Eugene Marshall
Ink: Bien Flores
Sensitivity Editor: Pamela Punzalan
Art Director: Aaron Acevedo
This creature is from the upcoming Book of Beasts. Keep an eye out every Thursday for a new monster as part of our Monster of the Week series!