Vanth is an Etruscan goddess who served as psychopomp and herald of death. Later, as the Etruscan culture developed, she also became the goddess of Justice. There's no real equivalent figure to Vanth in either Greek or Roman mythology.
Vanth appears at deaths, especially murder and other violent deaths. However, her role is benevolent, guiding the dead to their proper place in the underworld. In addition to escorting the dead to the afterlife, she also provides mercy or help to the very ill, appearing at deathbeds to take them to the next world.1 If you had to chose between Vanth and Karun, for example, you'd be happy to see Vanth.2 Sometimes Vanth protects and watches over heroes, such as Adrastus (the only one of the Seven Against Thebes who made it home alive).
Vanth appears youthful, winged and bare-breasted huntress wearing boots, a short skirt, and crossed baldrics. In most images her wings have eyes upon them, as death sees all. She carries a torch, a scroll, a sword, and a key, and sometimes a Snake. Most likely the torch lights the way, and the key opens the doors to the underworld. The scroll likely has information on the dead, possibly an accounting of their life or destiny, though in at least one depiction it actually bears Vanth's name on it.
Vanth is a very important figure in Etruscan art and religion, and likely has some authority in the next world. She's not the leader of the underworld, but she's no minor personage, either. Other divinities associated with death and the underworld in the Etruscan traditions include Aita, Alpan, Artume, Atunis, Culsu, Februs, Ferspnai, Karun, Leinth, Lethans, Mania, Mantus, Thethlumth, Tuchulcha, Turns Aitas, Tvath and Vetis. The Etruscans put a lot of thought into the afterlife and underworld, which is well-populated and was probably intricately defined in their day.
Game and Story Use
- Vanth is an interesting character that could spice up any game with religion or mythology. She's a bit like the Angel of Death, or even a Valkyrie, but not nearly as familiar or cliched.
- Vanth shows up when a PC dies, or is on the edge of death, and offers to guide them to their just rewards. The players probably don't know who she is, and so will have a hard decision. Many PCs will just cling to life, no matter what, but some might decide based on what "just reward" they are destined to. If only they could get a peak at her scroll before deciding.
- Vanth might show up before any battle in Italy or Etruria, regardless of the religious beliefs of those at the battle. PCs who are psychic or have the ability to detect spirits might see her arrive well before any violence breaks out. She is a herald of death, after all.
- Vanth takes an interest in a PC, and becomes their patron or guardian angel, as she did with Adrastus.
- Vanth is often accompanied (in artwork) by Karun. They may be a team of Hitmen to the Etruscan gods. Or, they might have a romance going on. See Karun for more ideas.
Building This Character
- Epic. As a deity, and not a minor one within her own pantheon, Vanth will be quite powerful.
- Probably not a slouch in any area, but no particular attributes are suggested by the art.
- Being bare-breasted may give her a Charisma bonus vs males. :)
- Her dress and tools suggest she's a huntress. She'll know how to swing that sword, and how to track.
- Her winged eyes see all. There's got to be some awareness, observation, search, etc out of that.
- Snake handling?
- As a psychopomp, she'll have the required knowledge of the various worlds. Plus, regional knowledge of Etrutia (Italy).
- Planar Travel of some sort. The ability to guide a soul to the underworld. Could be connected to her torch or key.
- Flying, definitely.
- Her winged eyes see all. It should be impossible to score a sneak attack on her.
- A scroll listing a person's past or destiny. Perhaps it has everyone's secrets.
- Sometimes she has a snake, so there could be some sort of venom attack, I guess.
- Being bare-breasted is actually a defense against bad luck or black magic in the Etruscan tradition, so she may be especially hard to enchant or hex.
- I picture her as the melee equivalent of The Sniper… I guess that's The DPSer or The Bushwhacker. She heralds death, and should be able to bring it pretty quickly.
- Other options include The Steamroller or Evasion Tank if you picture her more into rapid action and grace than a one-hit-one-kill stealth machine.
- She and Karun might be a team. If so, she's likely the brains, sophistication, and subtlety. Karun is just muscle. If they both have similar combat roles, they'll be narrowly deadly but easy to trump via tactics. Choose roles that compliment each other well.