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Basic Information

The Penanggalen is a type of vampire-like undead native to South-East Asia and the Pacific Rim. It is known by this name amongst the Malay, but is known to the Philippinos as a Manananggal, An Ap amongst the Kmer, a Kasu in Laos and a Krasue in Thailand.

Whatever name it is known by, the creature takes the form of a young, attractive woman whose head detatches at night and flies about in search of prey with its bloody viscera dangling beneath it. Exactly which internal organs it takes with it seems to vary, but the stomach and intestines are common for reasons which should be obvious. Such creatures are said to arise from a variety of sources, ranging from a curse placed upon an innocent woman to a wicked one hanged for killing children but evil magic is often at the root of it. A similar creature also appears in an Eastern European narritive in which a woman hiding in a barrel somehow knocks her own head off with her knee.

Like many female vampires, their preferred prey is babies and young children - even, perhaps especially, the unborn whom they can draw out of their sleeping mothers using a long, serpent-like tongue. Denied these, they may dig up corpses from shallow graves, attack domestic animals or feed on faeces and carrion, sometimes wiping their mouths on laundry left out to dry overnight. Attacks on healthy adults appear to be rare. Due to the vulnerable nature of their dangling innards they are adverse to thorn branches and similar things and can be deterred by planting a thorn hedge around a property, placing thorn-branches on a window ledge and similar measures.

If unable to return to her body before dawn, the penanggalen is said to die in great pain as soon as the sunlight touches her innards and some sources say she must soak her organs in vinegar to fit them back into the body cavity. The innards in fact appear to be her major weakness - she is also said to die if they are exposed to fire or even if they are simply cut off with a sharp object. Thinking, for a moment of the loogaroo it might also be possible to find the vacated body and stuff it with something unpleasant (thorns again perhaps?) … or just burn it.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Might be found living an almost normal life as a back-street abortionist - what better prey for an infanticidal monster than babies that their mothers actively want killed? Alternatively the abortionist may be an ally or servant of the penanggalen to remove the requirement for her to climb in and out of her body between clients.
  • Probably not a great combat challenge - even if the creature is tougher in a fight than is usually shown to be the case, finding and dealing with the body should probably be a viable solution.
    • Indeed, faced with a fast moving and wary opponent this may be the only available solution.
  • Of course, the logic of the various accounts would suggest that if it can avoid (direct?) sunlight it can survive being away from its body for at least a while.
    • Conversely, as per western vampires, it may turn out that some fraction of sunlight (traditionally UV light) makes a perfectly satisfactory substitute - which it may not even know about.
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