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The Bhut of Sindby Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 13
The Bhut of Sind
by Giampaolo Agosta (Agathokles)
In the lands of Sind, many shapeshifter races have thrived for a long time, until the purges of the V century AC, brought on by the Sindhi Jadugeryas. These races were collectively known as the chambahara. Nowadays, only a few rakshasa, some prides of weretigers, and a number of doppelganger clans remain in the Rajahstan.
However, one other race of shapechangers has never been fully eradicated by the Sindhi Magi: the bhut. These humanoids, harnessing the powers of both the lycanthropes and the undead, have managed to remain undetected for half a millennium.
The bhut are not a numerous race, and travel and hunt in small bands, not conspicuous enough to let suspicions bypass their magical protections. They are endowed with great physical abilities, and often with a keen intellect as well, but are short lived, as if their bright life energies burn too fast, or the undead part of their being took over in time. A common bhut rarely lives over 60 or 70 years.
Greater Bhut are much more powerful, but their numbers are even more limited. They are slightly longer lived -- still less so than a common human, but their reproduction rate is even lower. However, once in awhile a son of one of these “noble” families will be a scion of the clan patron immortal. These especially blessed individuals have the potential to become clan leaders, and have superior intelligence and wisdom, in addition to a much longer life, slightly over the human norm.
Bhut are generally found in Sind, Hule, and the Black Mountains, although individual troupes and bands can roam much further, as most Bhut groups disguise themselves as trade caravans, gypsies, or other travellers.
The Bhut Pantheon
The bhut have a complex religion with a large pantheon, led by three Immortals who oppose the three personae of Ixion -- Ayazi, Himayeti and Aksyri, that is the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer.
The Three Goddesses
The Creator is opposed by an Immortal who perverts creation, the Preserver is opposed by a champion of Entropy and Destruction, and the Destroyer by a Master of Undeath. The Immortals who form this triad are among the most powerful Entropics, Loki, Demogorgon, and Hel.
Bhajyagwani, the Veiled One, is a female aspect of Loki (also known as Lokar, Farbautides, or Bozdogan), and is patroness of the Daytime Masquerade, the human form which the bhut assume during the day, to mix in their chosen prey's society and lure their victims to their death. As the goddess of the distortion of truth, Bhajyagwani opposes Ayazi, the Creator, by hiding its work behind veils of illusion. Bhajyagawani's form is that of a young, slim, fair-skinned woman.
Dhamurgani, Queen of the Night, oversees every aspect of fighting and combat. She is the patroness of the Nightly Hunt, and feeds the bhut with human flesh. As the goddess of pure destruction and entropy, she is directly opposed to the Preserver, Himayeti. Dhamurgani is known as Demogorgon in the eastern lands, and as Goron in the west. Dhamurgani is represented as a feral reptilian humanoid, or as a beautiful green skinned woman.
Kali, the Black One, rules the Future and holds the Fate of each bhut in her hands. She is portrayed as a dusky-skinned woman with several hands, with one half of her body replaced by a pure black shade. She is considered by the bhut the patroness of Undeath. Note that the Darine gypsies revere Kali with a very different set of attributes. The Darine's Kali is a persona of Valerias, while the bhut's goddess is an aspect of Hel.
According to Bhut myths, the three goddesses generated three children, Mavasa, Jammudaru, and Maravidya. The father of these three gods is not clearly specified by the Bhut myths. Some clans believe it was an act of parthenogenesis, while others introduce a male counterpart of the Veiled One, Bhajyagwana, but do not elaborate further on this character. Others yet claim the father to have been one of the major demons of Sindhi lore, but these last myths seem to bear the influence of non-Bhut mythology.
Of the three children Mavasa, the Herald of Corruption, was the son of Bhajyagwani, and provided the Bhut with their ability to pass undetected amongst the normal humans. He is known as Masauwu in other nations. The Bhut portray him as a normal human, with one hand lying across his chest and the other hidden behind his back.
Jammudaru, the Herald of Destruction, was generated as a shapeless mass by Dhamurgani, Queen of the Night. He later took the form of an horrible ogre to spread destruction in Sind. He gave the Bhut their resilience and fighting prowess. He is not widely known outside Sind, but he is revered by certain ogre tribes in the Broken Lands and even further away. Jammudaru is rarely represented by the Bhut through statues. When they do so, they portray him as a muscular, angry ogre. Otherwise, they see Jammudaru's image in the lava or in various ooze monsters, which are sacred to Jammudaru's followers.
Maravidya, the Herald of Undeath, was the last of the second generation gods. The Dead One is the son of Kali, and was born already undead. He gave the Bhut their undead-like special abilities, and a promise of eternal unlife. Maravidya is also known as Marwdyn, though he is not very popular in eastern Brun. Maravidya is represented as a semi-mummified, decayed body, sometimes with a noose hanging from his neck.
Each of these Children generated in turn one of the progenitors of the Bhut by mating with Chandri, the Mother of All Creatures1. This gave birth to different breeds of Bhut, with different focus and abilities: the Children of Jammudaru are the most vengeful and proactive, while Sons of Mavasa are subtle and reactive, and Children of Maravidya have much in common with the Undead. In a campaign, Children of Jammudaru might be the first met, while the reclusive Children of Maravidya are more likely to be encountered only later.
Each of the three Children also represents one of the aspects of the Bhut, namely the human façade, the beast within, and the undead.
Bhut Pantheon Table
The Bhut Clans
There are three clans of Bhut, each claiming descent from one of the original Bhut, fathered by Maravidya, Jammudaru, and Masava. Each clan uses special naming rules, and gives a special title to its elders. Additionally, powerful Bhut of the different clans develop different abilities, each focusing on their chief patron's portfolio.
Jammudarava, Children of Jammudaru
Naming rules: personal name, family name, plus a compound name formed by the name of a vanquished foe + sudana ("destroyer of ____").
Title of clan chief: Kshayanatha (Master of Destruction).
Progenitor: Hara, the Destroyer, son of Jammudaru, is said to have been a terrific fighting machine, with unparalleled shapechanging abilities--as far as Bhut shapechanging goes, anyway. He is said to have been killed by the Immortal hero Halava (Halav), who was led to Sind for this purpose by the gypsies on a command from Jayavani (Djaea). After the battle, Halava and Jayavani generated the god of animals, Jirchava (Zirchev), and the goddess of defence, Pitari (Petra).
Clan specialty: Destruction. Children of Jammudaru are the most direct and warlike of the Bhut. They revel in bloodshed and battle, and like to employ their physical power to overcome their foes. Their clan pose usually as bands of travelling mercenaries. Children of Jammudaru kill and eat almost any sentient being, except ogres, who are taboo for them. Gypsies are another special enemy of the Children of Jammudaru, since they are said to have helped in the destruction of their ancestor Hara.
Maravideya, Children of Maravidya
Naming rules: personal name, family name, plus a compound name formed by name of a vanquished foe + çava2 ("corpse of ____").
Title of clan chief: Anantanatha (Master of Eternity).
Progenitor: Ananta (The Eternal One), son of Maravidya, was, or perhaps is, the first of the Children of Maravidya. He is supposed to have reached full undeath at some point in the past. His descendants believe he is still hiding somewhere, gathering the corpses of their dead relatives and bringing them to eternal unlife.
Clan specialty: Necromancy. Children of Maravidya are the philosophers of the Bhut race. They prefer to employ undead minions in battle, and are rarely seen as travelling bands. The clans will pose as monk cloisters or philosophy schools, rather than as bands of gypsies.
Mavasaputra, Children of Mavasa
Naming rules: personal name, family name, plus a compound name formed by a name of a beguiled or vanquished foe + çanti ("death of ____", but also "prosperity of ____").
Title of clan chief: Çantinatha (Master of Peace, but also Master of Death)
Progenitor: Mayavati, daughter of Mavasa, was the first of this clan. She was a powerful magician, and had a key role in the advancement of the Shapechangers in Sindhi society. She disappeared from the shapechangers' society far before the purges brought on by the Maga Aditi3, and never resurfaced. An important legend in the Bhut folklore tells that Mayavati was sent to the chief of the Rakshasa, Danal (Danel Tigerstripes). She seduced the immortal and brought him under the control of Bhajyagwani.
Clan specialty: Deception, Illusions. These Bhut are usually found in small travelling bands, mimicking the gypsies. However, there is a centuries-long feud between the monsters and the true gypsies, who hunt down the impostors when they detect their presence. Members of this clan enjoy a special bond with rakshasa (+3 bonus to reactions), and any travelling band is 10% likely to host one of these evil spirits.
Hara, Mayavati, and Ananta are supposed to be either Monsters of Legend of Paragon rank (if AD&D rules are being used) or Exalted Monster Rulers (if rules from Wrath of the Immortals are being used).
Herebelow, the three Progenitors are described as Paragon Bhut under AD&D 2e rules from the DM's Option: High Level Campaigns book.
Hara, the Destroyer, Paragon Bhut
Str 20 Int 13 Wis 13 Dex 19 Con 18 Cha 15
AC -8, 32 HD (240 HP)
Dmg 3d8/3d8/3d10, Wounding 2d6/round
Magic Resistance 100%
Regeneration 4 hp/round
Fear Aura (50', ST at -4)
Hara looks like a huge, muscle-bound, savage Sindhi warrior during the day, but when the sun goes down he transforms into a horrible monster, similar to a cross between a werewolf and a gurrash4.
Ananta, the Eternal One, Paragon Bhut
Str 15 Int 15 Wis 19 Dex 17 Con 18 Cha 16
AC -8, 32 HD (200 HP)
Magic Resistance 100%
Regeneration 3 hp/round
Priestly Abilities: 20th level Priest
Ananta is a unique individual, of near undead status. He looks somewhat like a well preserved lich, or a desiccated ghoul. However, he does not cause fear in those who behold him, rather, he transmits a deadly calmness to the onlooker. During the night, his features change to match those of the corpse of a common bhut.
Mayavati, the Seducer, Paragon Bhut
Str 14 Int 18 Wis 15 Dex 18 Con 15 Cha 19
AC -8, 32 HD (160 HP)
Magic Resistance 100%
Regeneration 3 hp/round
Wizardly Abilities: 20th level Illusionist
Mayavati appears as an stunningly beautiful and sophisticated Sindhi young lady, even during the night, since she is covered in layers of illusionist magic. However, she uses disguises so often that she might not have used her “true” form for a century or more.
The three Progenitors may or may not still be around in Sind or somewhere else in Mystara, or they might have been destroyed, or they might just be somewhere in the Outer Planes of their patrons. In any case, Ananta and Mayavati fit better in Sind than Hara, who would be too easy to spot. According to Bhut legends, Hara was destroyed by Halava (Halav), while Ananta is still alive and hiding somewhere in the Sind Desert. Mayavati's whereabouts are a mystery even for the Bhut -- perhaps she is hiding in Bhajyagwani's home plane.
In this section, we present an OD&D Bhut character class, using the format of the Creature Crucible series, starting at 2HD and going up to Normal Monster, then up to whatever level limit the DM wants to set for creature characters. XP progression is pretty slow, as expected for character races with special powers. A Bhut saves as a fighter of level equal to one and a half the Bhut's HD, rounded down.
Table: OD&D Bhut character class
Semi-Paralysis (1 round, +5 initiative, -1 to hit)
Immunity to Enchantments
Immunity to Poison/Gas
Normal Monster abilities
Spellcaster, level 1*
Special Ability I
Spellcaster, level 2*
Spellcaster, level 3*
Special Ability II
Full control of Shapechange
Spellcaster, level 4*
over 9+3 HD, the Bhut gains 1 spellcasting level and one hit point per level, while other abilities stay at the same level as other Greater Bhut.
* only those Bhut who choose to become Shamans or Witch Doctors. All other Bhut receive one extra hit point per level, and attack as monsters with two more HD than they are.
Animate Undead Animals 2/day
Spoil Food & Water 2/day,
Hypnotic abilities as wolfwere
Control Undead as priest of level 3+
Cause Disease w/ touch (debilitating)
A Bhut of at least 8+2 HD can become a Shaman or Witch Doctor. The table below is mostly for use with AD&D Bhut (which can derived from the OD&D version with the necessary modifications), but it can be used to decide which spells the OD&D Bhut spellcasters have access to.
Table: Spell Access for AD&D Bhut
Charm, Summoning, Protection+, Travellers
Combat, War, Healing*
Chaos, All, Sun*, Elemental+
* reverse only
+ minor access only
Beyond Sind: Brotherhood of the Three Goddesses
Although the Bhuts are no longer as powerful or widespread as in the times of the chambahara rule in Sind, the tendrils of their influence are still felt across a much wider region than just the Great Waste or Sind. Bhuts are travellers by nature, and the scions of the three clans have always kept an eye on Darokin and the nations of the Sea of Dread.
Recruiting a number of other chambahara, some powerful undead, and even some humans, they have formed a cult, the Brotherhood of the Three Goddesses, which is found across and below the Sea of Dread. The cult takes the form of a secret society, whose members wear symbols in the form of a triskelion with wavy, irregular legs, often tattooed in yellow ink on the cultists’ bodies, or inscribed on brooches and pins.
The cult is organized in three branches, each headed by a different leader, and dedicated to one of the three goddesses of the Bhut pantheon.
Hadric of Colhador (Velya, C), a velya and a follower of Hel, leads the Kali branch, which is mostly composed of undead, with a few wereshark agents, and is headquartered in the Undersea ruins of the Taymoran city of Colhador. Hadric is much older than the Brotherhood, and has his own motives -- increasing his personal power, and restoring Taymora as an underwater undead nation. Hadric has agents in the Kingdom of Undersea and among the undead of Elegy Island.
Morak (Baldandar, C), a baldandar, leads the Bhajyagwani branch from his hideout in the raft city of Kron, where he is the High Sorcerer. The Bhajyagwani branch is composed of humans and shapechangers (some lesser bhuts, but mostly dopplegangers and baldandars). High-ranking human cultists are generally transformed into weresharks. Low-ranking cultists are believed to be more useful and easier to control as humans, so they are only turned into lycanthropes if they are needed as shock troopers. Morak employs his considerable magical skills to control the king of Kron, turning the raft city into a pirate base.
The Baron Rackham (Human F9/Wereshark 4, C), a Tribune of Ierendi, is the leader of the Dhamurgani branch, which is composed mostly of humans and weresharks. Baron Rackham recently managed to acquire the position of Chancellor of the Tribunal, which gives him access to the resources of the Kingdom of Ierendi. Moreover, the cultists of Dhamurgani have acquired the services of groups of troglodytes and lizard men, falsely promising them free rule over Aloysius, Roister and Utter island.
Behind the scenes, Greater Bhuts pull the strings of all three of the branches. Outwardly, the bhuts appear as mere messengers, maintaining the communication channels among Hadric, Morak and Rackham. However, they hold the true power within the cult, and freely exchange information among them to stay one step ahead of their supposed leaders.
Kavashin Jaitraputra Dvipasudana (Bhut 4, C) acts as a courier and legbreaker for Baron Rackham. Apparently, he is just muscle for the Brotherhood, but actually he is a Greater Bhut warrior. He generally pulls back when faced with powerful enemies, in order not to give away his cover. He is typically found in the city of Ierendi during the day, although he retreats to his hideout in the troglodyte caves during the night.
Viraavy Kundheya Supratikaçava (Bhut Shaman 4 of Hel, N) operates primarily on Elegy Island, although he frequently communicates by magic with Hadric of Colhador. In theory, he is supposed to report to the Velya and act as his agent in Elegy, but he has his own agenda, and plans to rid himself of the untrustworthy sea vampire.
Suvarma Durmadeya Dviradaçanti (Bhut Wicca 4, C) travels primarily in Minrothad, but can also be found on the raft city of Kron, or in Ierendi, bringing messages from Morak to the other members of the cult. A skilled illusionist, Suvarma can pass as a human also by night, making him the most versatile member of the trio.
A Campaign Scheme for the Brotherhood
This scheme combines X1 Isle of Dread, X7 War Rafts of Kron, and Death in Freeport into a campaign, focusing on the Brotherhood as the primary enemy, providing a pulp/Cthulhu Mythos tone to the campaign. XSOLO Lathan’s Gold is also useful for background information.
The campaign starts from the “dwarf’s quest” in the latter module. Thorur Silverbeard the Young, master of the Goldsmiths’ Guild, recently acquired the journal of Rory Barbarosa5, a deceased adventurer and explorer from the Thyatian territories on the Isle of Dawn. In his journal, Rory talks of gold artifacts inherited by the villagers of Tanaroa from their ancestors. However, there is one missing page in the journal -- the page where Rory sketched a map of the Isle of Dread, where the village is located, and provided directions to it. Now, Thorur's agents have located the map in Ierendi (either in the castle library or in the People's Temple vaults). Thorur contacts the PCs (in particular any Ierendi or dwarf PC will be contacted, if possible) and offers to share with them the profits of an expedition to the Isle of Dread: the Goldsmiths will get exclusive rights to any gold mine (or other mine of precious minerals), while the PCs can keep all the manufactured items (coins, jewelry, weapons, etc.) they find in the process.
Death in Ierendi and The Isle of Dread
Death in Freeport, adapted to Ierendi, acts as the initial adventure in the campaign. The PCs travel to Ierendi City only to find that Lucius, the assistant archivist, and the document they are looking for are missing. A very concerned Royal Archivist, Farrem6 will lead them to Lucius' house (Farrem replaces Brother Egil). From this point on, the PCs will go on the Death in Freeport adventure mostly as written. Baron Rackham replaces Milton Drac, and Red Rory Hackskull7 replaces the orc pirate captain, Scarbelly. Red Rory’s ship is a small galley with a mixed hin and human crew. Also, replace any Serpent Men with lizardmen and/or troglodytes. At the end of Death in Freeport, the PCs should find the missing pages of Rory Barbarosa’s journal together with Lucius.
From there, the PCs will go on their Isle of Dread mission -- use the X1 Isle of Dread module to this end. However, the role of the Kopru should be emphasized. These creatures are very intelligent, and will do their best to mind-control the PCs, sending them back to Ierendi and Undersea to contact their sleeper agents -- one of which is a high-ranking priest of the People’s Temple of Ierendi (the People’s Temple replaces the temple of the God of Knowledge from the Freeport trilogy, and the Kopru followers of Slizzark replace the Serpent Man followers of Yig). The mind-controlled characters will be led to the kopru statue, which is an idol of Slizzark, with hypnotic powers of its own.
Some Like it Hot
At this point, the mind-controlled PCs will go on a series of missions for the Kopru. Rather than playing these missions, which is tedious as the players have no control of the characters, it is best to have them deal with the consequences, after they come back to their minds -- which should take a couple of months. By that time, the PCs will have returned to Specularum, and will find on them some unusual items that will point out to their travels in the past months -- e.g., a piece of mummy wrappings with pre-Nithian pictograms, a potion of water breathing, knowledge of spells only found in Ylaruam, Undersea, or another area visited by the PCs, and so on. They may or may not pursue the investigation of their “missing months”, but these will come back to haunt them anyway, either through nightmares, or through concrete consequences -- e.g., the PCs might be recognised as associates of captain Hackskull by Thyatian spies, or might be wanted as the assassins of Milos in Ierendi.
The first, although minor, goal of the Isle of Dread Kopru is to get back in touch with their compatriots in the Sunlit Sea. The dominated PCs have therefore visited underwater volcanoes and met at least some Kopru.
The Hackskull Run
The main goal of these Kopru is to increase the volcanic activity in the Sunlit Sea, which would enable them to take it over. To this end, they need to access and overcharge the elemental vortex under Honor Island.
They know that Red Rory Hackskull, a Hin pirate, is in contact with the Honor mages. They plan to smuggle the Slizzark Idol into Honor, using Red Rory and then his Honor contacts as the unwitting carriers.
Thus, at least one of the PCs (or their NPC retainers) will have spent part of the month looking for Red Rory. Red Rory, as a Hin, might be too resistant to domination, but not all his crewmen are Hin, so some will be dominated by the Slizzark Idol, which will then be passed over to the Honor mage contact.
Terror in Ierendi
The second goal of the Kopru conspiracy is to protect their own assets in Ierendi from the aggression of the Brotherhood. In particular, the presence of a Brotherhood mole (Milos from Death in Freeport) in the People's Temple of Ierendi threatens the Kopru plan, Hazzik (who replaces Thuron from the Freeport adventures). The Kopru will have the most suitable mind-controlled PCs steal compromising documents from Lucius' house and kill Milos (if he survived from Death in Freeport).
This event should happen immediately before the end of the domination, and may start the Terror in Freeport and Madness in Freeport adventures.
The Aloysius Ritual
Finally, the Kopru want a ready source of manpower and a diversion to keep Ierendi and the Brotherhood busy while they carry out their own plans. They plan to return to life the lizardmen of Aloysius, whom they know have been set in suspended animation by their priests. Thus, they send the remaining PCs on a quest to Malpheggi, to recover a Mogreth shaman fetish, then to Kirkuk in Ylaruam to smuggle a lizardman mummy priest8 and awake it on Aloysius.
The Conspiracy and War Rafts of Kron
Finally, the goal of the Brotherhood is to start a war in the Sea of Dread, pitting Undersea, Minrothad and Thyatis against each other, while plotting the takeover of Ierendi by the Dhamurgani branch under Baron Rackham. To the latter end, modify the effect of the Lighthouse of Drac from the Freeport Trilogy to cause a plague of wereshark lycanthropy. To the former, they manipulate Undersea and Kron as per X7 War Rafts of Kron.
Ideally, War Rafts of Kron and Madness in Freeport should be played in a very short timeframe, to increase the difficulty of fulfilling both tasks.
Morak and the Brotherhood succeed fully. Ierendi's government will fall entirely in the hands of the Brotherhood as the Lighthouse in the Freeport Trilogy is completed (this will have the effect of decreasing the Saving Throws of non-shapechangers; it will also have the effect of increasing the virulence of the lycanthropic wereshark strain. Minrothad shipments will be harassed by Undersea and Kron, until the Guilds call in Thyatian help to wage war on Undersea. While Thyatis and Minrothad cannot hold Undersea, a weakened Undersea would easily fall into the hands of Hadric and/or the devilfishes, and Minrothad will not be able to lead another anti-lycanthrope crusade in the Sea of Dread, leaving Ierendi in the hands of the shapechangers.
Morak fails and the Brotherhood's plot in Ierendi is averted. The Tribunal of Ierendi will back into the non-shapechanger's hands. In this case, Kron is destroyed or becomes less of a pirate state, and the Undersea-Minrothad war does not take place. The PCs are successful, and will likely become recognized heroes across the nations of the Sea of Dread.
Morak fails, but the Brotherhood's plot in Ierendi succeeds. In this case, the Undersea-Minrothad war is averted. However, Ierendi falls in the hands of a lycanthropic government as the outcome of the construction of the Lighthouse. A new Silver Purge will take place in the form of an Ierendi-Minrothad war. Due to the lycanthropic plague, the traditional allies of Ierendi, Undersea, Honor, and the Five Shires, might desert them, leading to an easier victory by a Thyatis-backed Minrothad Guilds navy.
Morak succeeds, but the Brotherhood's plot in Ierendi is averted. In this case, the Minrothad Guilds and Undersea are at war, with Kron exploiting the events to plunder Minrothad shippings. Ierendi remains out of the hostilities, but provides reinforcements to the Merrow if Hadric or the devilfishes take over Undersea.
Regardless of the outcome, unless the PCs have been very thorough in retracing their steps, the Kopru will have a new network of contacts set up across the Sea of Dread, and may have some aces up their sleeve to play in the near future -- in particular, a certain Mogreth priest recalled back from the slumber of death...
1Chandri is the name of the Immortal Dragon Pearl.
2Pronunciation note: ç is read as ch in French "chat", most other phonetic marks are omitted.
3The leader of the Sindhi Magi and the founder of the Jadugerya caste of modern Sind.
4A gurrash, or gator-man, is a type of lizard-kin (see The Savage Coast Campaign Book).
5See X1 Isle of Dread.
6Farrem is an NPC from The Kingdom of Ierendi Gazetteer.
7A Hin pirate from the Five Shires.
8This is the Lizardman priest found in Kirkuk's well in Gazetteer 2, The Emirates of Ylaruam.