Deep and ancient magic infuses the funerary rituals of mighty warriors and great leaders. One such ritual involves the voluntary sacrifice of a lover of the deceased, burying them in the loamy foundation of their beloved’s barrow. Forever soothing and serving their lover for the eons.
A year and a day after the funerary ritual, the barrow wife begins to establish their barrow ward - the land around the beloved’s burial site. From the moss, lichen, reeds, and wet clay of their barrow ward, a barrow wife may take the form of a misshapen humanoid. From a distance you might confuse them for a person covered in mud and twigs. Those traveling through a barrow ward may hear the low and wordless soothing song of the barrow wife, comforting their departed lover.
While you can destroy the physical form of a barrow wife, it will reform during the next moonrise. Destroying a barrow wife outside of its barrow ward forever destroys its spirit.
Their love and devotion drives a barrow wife to protect the final resting place of their beloved and to add to their beloved’s wealth (and even glory). The means of gaining that wealth is often through gifts, offerings, and the occasional robbery. After all, their beloved is dead, they don’t know that the silver was a gift from peasants and not from the plunder of conquest.
It should be noted that the barrow wife is not undead. Their spirit has transferred to the barrow ward.
Barrow Wife Statblock
Initiative (Init 🔍) +0; Attack (Atk 🔍) slam +3 melee (d6 + suffocation on natural 17-20); Armor Class (AC 🔍) 14 (or more); Hit Die (HD 🔍) 4d8; hp 18; Movement (MV 🔍) 30’; Action(s) (Act 🔍) 1d20; Special Property (SpP 🔍) blind (see barrow-sense), spirit; Saving Throw (ST 🔍) Fortitude (Fort 🔍) +5, Reflex (Ref 🔍) +1, Willpower (Will 🔍) +3; Alignment (Al 🔍) Neutral (TN 🔍).
Suffocation: A barrow wife that rolls a natural 17 to 20 on a slam attack and hits begins to suffocate their opponent; Pieces of moss, lichen, and clay fill the targets nostrils and mouth. The target, or an ally, may spend an action die to clean out their nostrils and mouth and end the suffocation. At the end of each of the targets turns in which they are suffocating they take 1d6 temporary Stamina damage. When the target’s Stamina drops to 0, the target dies. The target fully recovers from this temporary Stamina damage after a 10 minute rest.
Barrow-sense: While within the boundaries of their barrow ward, a barrow wife can sense and locate all creatures in the barrow ward. Outside of the barrow ward, a barrow wife is effectively blind.
Fire: A barrow wife first damaged by fire gains +2 AC and -10’ MV, as the clay hardens and solidifies.
The barrow wife is my response to the adventurers encountering a wayside shrine with an offering of silver coins; It was something I added to a random table for events while traveling. One of the players looted the offering. From there, I knew I had to introduce something.
With the first session taking place in the area surrounding the village of Bitterweed Barrow, and second session involved exploring a barrow mound outside the village of Hirot, I felt a very strong Danelaw vibe was warranted.
When I think of the look and feel of the barrow wife, I envision the Swamp Thing, only less viney and less defined. While the barrow wife name implies a female, I am deliberate in my language that anyone of any gender may be a barrow wife. I just don’t like the sound of Barrow Spouse or Barrow Partner. It also could be confused with Barrow Wight.