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A penanggalan had two forms. During the day, the penanggalan appeared as a human female resembling its original form before undeath. At night, the penanggalan returned to its lair and its head separated from its body, revealing a 3-foot-long tail. A penanggalan's eyes glowed red in darkness.
The penanggalan's head flew around in search of prey, seeking the most charismatic sleeping female (especially between the age of 13 and 40) and choosing males only when no females were available. When a suitable victim was found, the penanggalan hypnotized her, punctured her neck, and fed on her blood throughout the night. The penanggalan then released the victim, returning to suck more blood each successive night until the victim was dead. Even if the penanggalan failed to return, the victim suffered from a curse, dying after several weeks unless dispel evil and healing spells were cast on her. Victims never remembered the feeding of the penanggalan, recalling only vague images of red water and stacked corpses. Female victims who died rose from the grave after three days to become penanggalans themselves, whereas male victims did not turn into undead.
In human form, the penanggalan had the same fighting skills as in life and was unable to cause undeath. When a penanggalan's head was detached, it was unable to move its body but was able to sense other creatures around the body, in which case it would attack them, the only time it would attack creatures that were awake. If a penanggalan's head was exposed to sunlight, it would be paralyzed until the sunlight was gone. If the head was separated from the body for more than seven hours after exposure to sunlight, both head and body began to decay and the entity animating the body returned to the Nine Hells.
Most creatures that witnessed the separation of the penanggalan's head from its body fell unconscious for 24 hours, then wandered around in a stupor for three more days. Creatures that witnessed the head flying around, hissing garbled pronouncements of doom, were often overcome by fear.
Penanggalans lived solitary lives, living in up to six lairs at a time.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Tim Beach, Donald J. Bingle, Al Boyce, Vince Garcia, Kris Hardinger, Steve Hardinger, Rob Nicholls, Wes Nicholson, Norm Ritchie, Greg Swedberg, and John Terra (1992). MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 1-56076-428-7.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood and Sean K. Reynolds (March 10, 2004). “Voaraghamanthar, "the Black Death"”. Dragon #258 (TSR, Inc.).