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The nuckelavee chasing an islander, painting by James Torrance (1859–1916)

Out of the waves emerges a nightmarish creature with the shape of a horse whose flesh has been completely flayed. Where the horse’s head should be, there is a human torso, as skinless as the horse part of its body. To complete its list of monstrous features, the creature has only one red eye on its human forehead. This monstrosity, apparently made entirely of skinned horse and human limbs, continues skittering out of the water and hollering incoherently.

The Nuckelavee lives mainly in the sea, but was also held responsible for ruined crops, epidemics, and drought. His breath could wilt the crops and sicken the livestock.

He resembles a centaur whose legs are part fin; he has an enormous gaping mouth and a single giant eye, which burns with a red flame. The most gruesome detail of his appearance is the fact that he has no skin. Black blood courses through yellow veins, and the pale sinews and powerful muscles are visible as a pulsating mass. The Nuckelavee has an aversion of running water, and those who are chased by him have only to cross a stream to be rid of him. Some reports claim that he is simply a very large head on two small arms, with all of the other characteristics mentioned above.

Another phobia that the Nuckelavee suffers from is the burning of seaweed to create kelp. Enraged, he starts on a wild rampage of plague, killing cattle and many other creatures, and bringing bad crops. At this time, the only person to stop him is The Mither o’the Sea, another ancient God-like being of Orkney mythology.

Monster Encyclopaedia II: The Dark Bestiary

Author J. C. Alvarez

Series Monster Encyclopaedia

Publisher Mongoose Publishing

Publish date 2005

Large monstrous humanoid (Aquatic)
Hit Dice11d8+55 (104 hp)
Speed60 ft. (12 squares), Swim 80ft.
AC19 (-1 size, +2 Dexterity, +8 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple+11/+24
AttackSlam +19 melee (1d6+9) or hoof +19 melee (1d4+9)
Full Attack2 slams +19 melee (1d6+9) and 2 hooves +17 melee (1d4+4)
Space/Reach10 ft. /5 ft. (10 ft. with slam)
Special Attacksbestow curse, fearsome sight
Special QualitiesAmphibious, Darkvision 60 ft.
SavesFort +8, Ref +9, Will +8
AbilitiesStrength 28, Dexterity 15, Constitution 21, Intelligence 13, Wisdom 13, Charisma 14
SkillsListen +12, Search +11, Spot +12, Survival +1 (+3 following tracks), Swim +27
FeatsImproved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Power Attack
EnvironmentAny saltwater
Challenge Rating7
TreasureDouble standard
AlignmentAlways chaotic evil
Advancement12-22 HD (Large), 23-33 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment+3

The nuckelavee is a dreadful, unimaginably hideous monster. It haunts the coasts and riverbanks, taking its violent revenge against any mortal that despoils its territory. A nuckelavee appears as a kind of centaur, only with absolutely no skin on its body, leaving its bare muscles and black-blooded veins bare for horrified opponents to see. The human portion of its body is burly and muscular to the point of deformity, with arms so huge they rival its horse legs in size. Where its human eyes should be, the nuckelavee has only one blood-red orb with a slit black pupil. Its filed teeth, hooves and nails are all black.

Nuckelavees speak Aquan and Common.


A nuckelavee charges its prey, attempting to seize it with its powerful arms and slam the life out of it. It uses its bestow curse ability when truly angered against an individual or community.

The arms of a nuckelavee are extraordinarily large, giving it a longer reach with its slam attacks.

Bestow curse (Sp): A nuckelavee can cast bestow curse, as the spell, up to once per day. The save DC is 16 (Charisma based).

Fearsome Sight (Ex): Any creature coming within sight of a nuckelavee must succeed at a Will save (DC 17, Charisma based) or become frightened for 1 full minute. A creature that succeeds at this save cannot be affected by the same nuckelavee’s fearsome sight for the next 24 hours.

Skills: A nuckelavee gains a +8 racial bonus on Swim checks made to avoid hazards or perform special manoeuvres. It can always take 10 on Swim checks, even if rushed or threatened.

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