Mountain dwelling breath thieves. Yamachichi look like monkeys with distinctive, bat-like ears. They have long, grasping fingers and pointed lips. They use their lips to suck the breath from sleeping humans.
- Emphasize how rare and mysterious these creatures are. It would be very hard to track down a yamachichi.
- These creatures are perfect for mountain encounters. Set up a lonely rangers hut in the deep mountains. If your players choose to rest there, a yamachichi could make an appearance.
- You could adapt the yamachichi's curse to make it less lethal. Perhaps a player victim could suffer the Exhaustion condition for one day after the attack.
- Villagers in a remote mountain village have been dying from a strange curse. Victims report having a similar dream - a dream about a monkey-like creature's face.
- An esoteric shaman who lives in the mountains apparently has a pet that resembles a large flying squirrel. It is said that the pet is transforming into something else.
- A woman in a remote mountain village has just celebrated her 120th birthday, yet she looks as vital as ever. She believes it is because of a strange creature that visited her one night but no one believes her - about her age or the creature!
I sat outside last night and looked up at the bright sky. A mostly-full moon was low on the horizon, shining with an unusual intensity and painting the night sky with that fake looking blue colour - as if it was the set of a stage play. I could see bats wheeling in erratic circles above me, their shapes crisp and clear against that darkling stage. It reminded me of a strange story I once heard from a man who was in hiding in the mountains of Japan.
This man, let's call him Daizen (for I refuse to reveal his true name or his location), had suffered terrible persecution. Not knowing where else to turn, he fled into the mountains and painstakingly built a new life for himself. I bumped into him while on an expedition in search of a different yokai (the hag Ouni), and he was kind enough to provide shelter and a fine stew. His manners were impeccable, and his tiny hut orderly, yet there was no denying the strange tilt behind his eyes. As we shared stories, it became clear that the trials from his past had left their mark on him.
One night, as we started building our dinner fire, he suddenly dropped his kindling and snapped his eyes upwards. I followed his gaze and saw nothing but a small bat fluttering around. But the sight had enraged him and he snapped up his bow. With alarming speed and accuracy, he loosed an arrow and pinned the flying creature to a nearby tree. I watched with equal parts surprise and curiosity as he scuttled up the tree and plucked down his prize. My curiosity turned to disgust as he bit the head off the bat and spat it into the cold fire pit.
As we shared dinner that night he warned me of the yamachichi. According to Daizen, a bat that grows old enough transforms into something else – something sinister. The yamachici dwell in the deep mountain areas, visiting human settlements at night to steal people's breath. They look like large monkeys but with the long, pointed ears of a bat, and long, pointed lips designed for sucking breath from your mouth. When a yamachichi completes its ritual it taps its victim on the chest then scurries off into the mountains. The victim dies the following day. If the ritual is somehow interrupted, the victim lives longer than they normally would have.
Daizen claimed that controlling the bat population was essential to his long-term survival in the area. In the event that a yamachichi came to his hut, he feared that there would be no one around to see it and stop the monkey from sucking out all his breath. One of the many perils of choosing a life of isolation I suppose.
To this day, I'm still not sure if I believe Daizen's story. I've never encountered a yamachichi myself, and it seems likely that he had developed a fixation on bats as a result of his own derangements.
On the other hand I will say that a suspicion of bats is quite common, even amongst my fellow naturalist adventurers. I have also heard more than one report of a woman in northern Japan who is celebrating her 130th birthday. She tells any who will listen of the strange monkey that her brother chased off one bright night.
Written by Giles Ravensong.