A common trope used in trhiller movies is to place characters in a dark, confined space, while some unseen, or shadowy figure torments them. A good example of this is the opening scene of the movie, Scream. Another example is the dock scene in Batman Begins. In each film, the characters grow more and more terrified as the scene progresses, until eventually they succumb to hysterics.
This was the concept I had in mind when I created the wirry. I wanted a creature that could hide in the shadows and produce the type of hysterical fear that you see so often in movies.
Now I realize that there’s a danger in ascribing game mechanics to what is supposed to be an emotionally charged encounter. However, I would counter that even the most terrifying encounters are incapable of driving players to the brink of hysterics*. I also think that a creature like this, in the hands of a skilled GM, might really make the hair stand up on the necks of more than a few players. I mean just imagine: The players are all in the back of a butcher’s shop, the salted carcasses of cattle hanging from the rafters. They round the corner, only to come face to face with the hanged body of the former butcher. As they turn away in horror, they are shocked to discover that, instead of salted carcasses, they are now surrounded by the hanged, and desiccated bodies of dozens of villagers. Behind them, the door slams shut, and a shadowy figure disappears behind a hanged villager. They run to catch up with the creature, and instead see the the ghostly visage of a young girl. The girl giggles, and the entire room echoes with the sound. The girl’s face peels back, revealing a black skull with sharp teeth. One of the players screams and flees.
Seriously, I could go on like that for hours, and that’s exactly the sort of encounter I hope to create.
*The closest I ever came was when I ran Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. One of my players thought it would be a great idea to create a min/maxed orc barbarian/eye of Gruumsh that could do insane amounts of damage with each hit. Unfortunately, he neglected to consider the repurcussions of playing a 6th level character with a Wisdom of 6, and a Will save of 1 against a bunch of vampires. Needless to say, his character didn’t make his save against Strahd’s dominate ability, and in the final encounter, when he made his reappearance as a newly created vampire, the players all shouted in unison, “OH GOD! KILL THE ORC! KILL THE ORC!”