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Dullahan (Headless Horseman)

Epic Monsters: Headless Horseman (5E)

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A common motif in European folklore that didn’t really get its footing until The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I’m talking of course about the Headless Horseman!

Epic Monsters: Headless Horseman (5E) | EN World | Dungeons & Dragons | Tabletop Roleplaying Games

In the American tale it’s a Hessian soldier (German mercenary) that loses his head when a cannonball decapitates him and buried without it, he rises to find it. Conversely the Dullahan in Ireland is an Unseelie fairy that knows precisely where its head is–tucked under one arm–and wields a spine-whip in one hand. In Scotland he’s got no head again but neither does the horse. In England it gets a little creeper with Gawain and the Green Knight; after being beheaded, the Green Knight picks up his own head and declares he’ll be back to challenge Gawain again in a year’s time. Germans like to give him a horn and sometimes fire-licking bloodhounds, but the Indians have the coolest version: jhinjhārs, heroes that are too stubborn to die and instead fight to protect innocents from unjust or wrongful deaths.


Headless Horseman
Medium undead, chaotic neutral


Armor Class
 16 (natural)
Hit Points 68 (8d8+32)
Speed 30 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
18 (+4)​16 (+3)​19 (+4)​14 (+2)​15 (+2)​17 (+3)​

Skills Animal Handling +5, Athletics +7, Intimidation +6, Perception +5, Survival +5
Damage Resistances acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened, exhaustion, petrified, poisoned
Senses blindsight 30 ft., darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages the languages it knew in life
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Incorporeal Movement. The Headless Horseman can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. He takes 5 (1d10) force damage if he ends his turn inside an object. The Headless Horseman can use his bonus action to share his Incorporeal Movement trait with a creature he is touching until the start of his next turn.

Innate Spellcasting. The Headless Horseman’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14). He can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:

At will: detect magic, phantom steed
3/day: gust of wind, misty step
1/day: blight

Magic Resistance. The Headless Horseman has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Regeneration. The Headless Horseman regains 5 hit points at the start of his turn. If the Headless Horseman takes radiant damage or damage from holy water, this trait doesn’t function at the start of his next turn.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The Headless Horseman uses its Frightful Presence and attacks once, or he attacks twice: once with his chilling blade and once with his spinal whip.

Chilling Blade. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8+5) magical slashing damage plus 4 (1d8) cold damage.

Spinal Whip. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6+5) magical bludgeoning damage plus 4 (1d8) necrotic damage.

Death’s Calling. The Headless Horseman can use an action to place a death’s calling on a creature he can see within 60 feet. The target makes a DC 14 Charisma saving throw. On a failure, for 1 minute the target can’t use reactions and on its turn, it can use either an action or a bonus action, not both. A target can use its action to repeat the saving throw, ending this effect on itself with a success. In addition, until the target takes a long rest all weapon attacks against it score a critical hit on a roll of 19–20 and it automatically fails death saves.

Frightful Presence. Each creature of the Headless Horseman’s choice that is within 100 feet of him and aware of him must succeed on a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the Headless Horseman’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.

The Irish Dullahan (also Durahan, Gan Ceann) is a type of unseelie faerie. It is headless, usually seen riding a headless black horse and carrying his head under one arm. The head’s eyes are massive and constantly dart about like flies, while the mouth is constantly in a hideous grin that touches both sides of the head. The flesh of the head is said to have the color and consistency of moldy cheese. When the dullahan stops riding, a mortal dies. There is no way to bar the road against a dullahan–all locks and gates open on their own when it approaches. Also, they do not appreciate being watched while on their errands, throwing a basin of blood on those who dare to do so. Nonetheless, they are frightened of gold, and even a single gold pin can drive a dullahan away.

Originally posted by The Vorpal Tribble of the Wizards Community forums.

On this Thread

Dullahan
Medium fey (Extraplanar)
Hit Dice11d6+33 (71 hp)
Initiative+2
Speed40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class17 (+2 Dexterity, +5 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple+5/+6
AttackWhip +8 melee (1d4 plus 1 Constitution damage)
Full AttackWhip +8 melee (1d4 plus 1 Constitution damage)
Space/Reach5 ft./5 ft.
Special AttacksEvil eye, headless, spell-like abilities, water into blood
Special QualitiesDamage reduction 10/gold or silver, dark of night, Darkvision 120 ft., death watch, know no barriers, immunity to fear, Low-Light Vision
SavesFort +6, Ref +9, Will +8
AbilitiesStrength 13, Dexterity 14, Constitution 17, Intelligence 15, Wisdom 12, Charisma 19
SkillsBluff +18, Climb +15, Intimidate +18, Listen +15, Move Silently +16, Ride +16, Search +16, Spot +15
FeatsAbility Focus (headless), Blind-Fight, Intimidating Strike, Weapon Finesse(B), Weapon Focus (Whip)
EnvironmentUnseelie Court
OrganizationSolitary
Challenge Rating7
TreasureStandard
AlignmentNeutral Evil
AdvancementBy character class
Level Adjustment

This being appears at first as a man dressed in an exquisite suit and cloak all in black. There is no head upon its shoulders however, but is instead tucked beneath one arm. The head glows with a faint, unwholesome light of decaying matter and indeed its skin is the color and texture of stale dough or moldy cheese. An enormous, idiotic grin literally spreads from one pointed ear to the other. The eyes are enormous and noctural, though the pupils are tiny and dart about like crazed flies.

A dullahan is a bringer of death, a relentless being of cruelty who preys upon humanoids without pity and with a vicious amusement. They are the assassins of the Unseelie Court, going hither and thither, riding or running all night in Search of one who has in some way insulted or even merely annoyed the court or a member. Just as often they kill only for the sake of killing, playing horrible, deadly games that may last for hours, but fortunately cannot last past daybreak.

They are most often found riding a horse which he has cut the head off and granted a temporary life. Blind and mute, it is wholey enslaved to its rider’s whims to guide it. He rides the horse until it dies or the sun rises, whereupon the steed is finally granted death.

They weigh the same as a standard human, though tend to be a head shorter than average.

Combat

A dullahan on an assassination mission usually kills the creature straight out if possible with it’s finger of death, with only minimal play beforehand. Those it persues for sport can last all night, bleeding and frightening the creature until before dawn it is often quickly dispatched. Those that are particularly amusing however are allowed to live so that it can ‘play’ with them in the future.

A dullahan’s weapon appears to be made from a human spine. It acts as a +1 wounding Whip that deals lethal damage and can deal damage even to those with armor.

Dark of Night (Su):

A dullahan fades away uponm exposure to the mortal’s sun, instantly returning to the Unseelie Court. It may transport back to the Material Plane anytime during the night and cannot transport again until the next night. If kept from transporting, such as by an anti-magic field, the sunlight renders it blind for as long as it is exposed and for 1d4 minutes after.

Deathwatch (Su):

A dullahan continuously senses how close a creature is to death as the Deathwatch spell. This ability extends out in a thousand foot cone.

Evil Eye (Su):

If it wishes, anyone who meets a dullahan’s gaze within 60 feet must succeed on a DC 19 fortitude save or go blind in one eye. They take a -4 penalty to Appraise, Craft, Search, and Spot checks and those flanking them gain a +4 bonus instead of the normal +2. The save DC is Charisma-based.

Headless (Su):

A dullahan is immune to decapitation such as from a vorpal weapon. The head cannot be focused for a sunder attempt while held, and anyone who touches it, such as snatching away the head with a disarm attempt, must succeed on a DC 21 will save or be struck instantly dead. Those who survive initial contact are immune to the deathly repercussions for as long as they hold it. If it is set down and then touched again they must make another save. This is a death affect. The save DC is Charisma-based.

If the head is destroyed the dullahan is not killed, but it can only hear and see and use its death watch ability wherever the head is located. The head has 10 hit points and a hardness of 5.

The dullahan must always have one hand free to hold its head. When a dullahan fades back at sun up the head fades as well and reunites with the body.

Unless a dullahan’s head is destroyed after the main body is killed the creature rises back to life the next night.

Know No Barriers (Su):

All non-magical doors and locks a dullahan wishes to pass through unlock and open automatically whenever he approaches within 20 feet. Magical doors and locks are also affected and effects such as Arcane Lock are dispelled if the caster level is less than the dullahan’s HD.

Spell-like Abilities: Caster level 12th. Save DC’s are Charisma-based.

Water Into Blood (Ex):

As a standard action a dullahan can convert 1 cubic foot, or eight gallons, of water into blood.

Headless Steed

A dullahan’s steed has no Intelligence score and is blind and deaf. For as long as the dullahan is in contact with it it can continue to run without taking damage, though still takes damage from being spurred to greater speeds, and moves as if sighted by his guiding. It can take no actions and has no initiative except for what the dullahan commands it to do.

The steed must be first killed by the dullahan and its head removed. If the dullahan beheads and mounts the creature within one minute it returns to a temporary life at full hit points.

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