Maenads are a sort-of monster from Greek mythology; human women devoted to the worship of the god Dionysus, god of wine, revelry and madness, they were drunken, lusty, and vicious, roaming freely across the countryside in drunken revels that could switch from "good-humored feasting, drinking and rutting" to "ripping people and animals apart with their bare hands and feasting on their flesh" in the blink of an eye. The name may also have been applied to female worshippers of Dionysus during festivals dedicated to the god.
In Dungeons & Dragons, maenads are a race of innately psionic humanoids, and arguably an offshoot of the human race who appeared in the Expanded Psionics Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. They have a reputation for being wildly emotional, but in the flesh are typically perceived as extremely reserved. The dichotomy is explained thus; maenads are a race possessed of extremely strong emotions, and their culture has developed around the mentality of embracing strict self-control as a means to hold the turmoil at bay. Should their control be breached, the result is spectacular, violent, or spectacularly violent - their culture has embraced a strong martial bent, as combat training and ritualized duels are useful outlets for their bottled-up passions.
In a nod to the creatures they take their names from, the origins of their innate ferocity is unknown, but blamed on a misdeed by some now-forgotten deity, with some versions of the tale describing them as having originally been a race of more bestial creatures who only found peace by turning their mad frenzy on their creator-god, with control finally being attainable after its death.
For this reason, the typical maenad seems discreet, calm, restrained and undemonstrative, a side-effect of their cultural reliance on discipline and enforced mental calm. A side-effect is that they are are unwilling to use a sentence when a word will do, and happier still with a gesture if words can be dispensed with altogether. Physically, they resemble tall, wiry humans, averaging over 6ft tall and 200 pounds, with dark hair on their heads and completely hairless bodies. Their skin is flecked with bits of living, psi-reactive crystal, which partially explains their innate psionic traits, and a side-effect is that it gives them a peculiar "sparkling dusting" appearance, as if they were sprinkled with gem dust - in the right light, a maenad's skin has a striking luster. Their fine features and innate grace gives them an almost elfin cast, and it wouldn't be too hard for a maenad to pass as a half-elf or a human with distant elf ancestry.
Culturally, maenad alignment is arguably closest to preferring the Lawful alignments, at least if you associate "lawful" with "self-control" (because nobody ever agrees on what Lawful or Chaotic actually means). They do tend to value and protect others as well, which does give them a cultural tendency towards Good alignments.
Maenad populations tend to be small and secluded; they are a coastal people, for the most part, constructing well-hidden villages that use their surroundings to disguise their dwellings. It's rare for a maenad village to be larger than 300 souls. The sea has a strong psychological resonance with maenads, and it's very important to their culture; most maenads depend predominantly on seafood for their diet, supplementing it with occasional hunting from the inland and whatever crops can be grown close to the coastline. Even their religion is typically centered on sea-related gods. When they interact with other races, it's most commonly trading fish, pearls, or psi-sculpted crystals.
When it comes to socializing with other races, maenads are most comfortable with humans, finding that race’s various temperaments not too dissimilar to their own. They respect the dwarves’ ability to hold a grudge. Maenads are particularly taken with elves; the elves’ lightness of being is a balm to the maenad spirit. Maenads don’t dislike halflings, gnomes, or xephs, but have a hard time understanding their capricious ways. Maenads encountered away from their villages are almost exclusively adventurers or mercenaries. Some maenads take up adventuring out of a desire to travel and see the world. Others become adventurers because they tend to get along easier with those less given to inner rage than with others like themselves.
Maenads speak a language governed by strict rules of grammar. Chants play an important part in their songmaking and literature. They use the Elven alphabet for their script. Their names are given and used much like human names. Every maenad has at least one given name and a family name.
- Male Names: Alberik, Alrik, Basilius, Erland, Gunnar, Isak, Ragnor, Rurik, and Tor.
- Female Names: Agaton, Annalina, Blenda, Eleonora, Gala, Lena, Malin, Ragnara, and Vedis.
- Family Names: Coebelliantus, Hjalmar, Kolbjorn, Perchnosius, Torborn, Valborg, Valentin, Xaljorn.
Maenad PC Stats
- No ability score modifiers
- Base Land Speed 30 feet
- Naturally Psionic: 2 bonus psi power points at 1st level.
- Psi-Like Ability: A maenad can unleash a catastropic shriek of rage 1/day, which duplicates the effects of a Sonic damage Energy Ray psi-power with a manifester level equal to 1/2 Hit Dice (minimum 1st) and a Charisma-based save DC.
- Outburst (Ex): Once per day, a maenad can unleash their inner madness, reducing Intelligence and Wisdom by -2 but gaining +2 Strength. They can maintain this state for up to 4 rounds.
- Favored Class: Wilder
- Level Adjustment: +0
When Dragon Magazine #319 used the Expanded Psionics Handbook as the basis to do a semi-official 3.5 update of Dark Sun, maenads were one of the ExPH races added to the setting, alongside elans. Athasian maenads are an extraplanar race, brought to the world of Athas in the year of Priest's Contemplation when the Sorcerer-King Adropinus escaped from his banishment to the Black, bringing the maenads with him from some other world to facilitate his conquest of Balic. Subsequently ignored by him, they have begun to spread across the Tablelands, and many are beginning to turn on their former master, disillusioned by his cruelty and despising the wretched world that he has trapped them on. These maenads, like their ExPH counterparts, get on best with the humans, dwarves and elves of Athas, but they regard halflings as silly, and take other races as they find them, although they have a hard time understanding aarakocra and thri-kreen.
In Pathfinder, maenads are a race of magical, monstrous humanoids that look more or less like humans, until they reveal their true, more bestial aspect, with teeth and nails sharpening into claws and fangs. They are creatures of unbridled violence and decadence, who live their lives indulging in debased revels of gluttony, sex and violence, and who seek to lure others into following them down their path of debauchery, cannibalism, and gluttony.
Their "culture", such as it is, consists of throwing their debased revels, where they consume massive amounts of wine and food, cause fights, and tear their foes limb from limb, and infiltrating human societies, where they seek to influence others into adopting their ways. If they can't sway others through subtle influence, they exploit their natural abilities to manipulate minds, through hypnotic dances and mystically poisoned feasts that they conjure from thin air, both of which are capable of fostering urges that lead to excesses of hunger, lust, anger, and violence.
Their origins are unknown, but they are clearly supernatural beings in some way, as their magical abilities have more of a fey cast than anything, and they can live for thousands of years.
Pathfinder's maenads appeared in the 4th Pathfinder Bestiary.
D&D Maenads are part of Dreamscarred Press's conversion of the Psionics system to Pathfinder.