I’ve decided on a new take for the Aswang and similar shapeshifting banes of mankind in Hari Ragat. I’m hoping this will make them feel creepier and at the same time add a bit of human tragedy to them.
All Aswang were formerly human beings, more frequently female than male, who acquired the power to transform into the shapes of beasts or monstrous beings through black magic, or inherited it from an Aswang forebear. The temptations to become Aswang can be very powerful: longevity, youth, beauty, and increased spiritual power, which of course is useful for a lot of things. Another possible motivation for a person to seek to become Aswang is revenge, often for crimes against women such as rape.
There are many kinds of Aswang; some transform into animals like dogs or crocodiles, some take on a ghostly, immaterial shadow-form, some simply grow hideous fangs and wings. An Aswang’s ‘monster’ form depends on the ritual used to initially become Aswang. Each form also prefers a different kind of ‘food’ – some prefer human corpses, some prefer unborn fetuses, some children, and so on.
Aswang can masquerade as ordinary people most of the time, with few if any signs of their supernatural aspect. Cunning predators, they employ many tricks to keep their nighttime forays secret, and to cast doubt as to why their victims disappear or die. For example, an Aswang that feeds on unborn fetuses may choose sickly mothers to victimize; when the child is lost, or if the mother dies during pregnancy, no one is surprised.
However, the longer an Aswang lives, the greater its hunger becomes. New Aswang may feel the need to feed on human flesh or viscera only once in a year; as they grow older and more evil, they may start needing to feed monthly, then weekly, then nightly. At this point their presence in a community can no longer be hidden, and the hunt for them begins.
The hunt for an Aswang can be an intriguing whodunit type of adventure, with multiple suspects and the need to find out which is the real culprit without harming any innocents, and keeping the body count from getting any higher.