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Fiend Folio
By James Wyatt

T his week, I'm turning this week to a pair of monsters that originally appeared in the 1981 Fiend Folio, fondly remembered as the source of a great many really weird monsters. Coincidentally, they both start with Fs.


Firenewt

Medium Humanoid
Alignment: Neutral evil
Level: Low–Medium
Environment: Hot places

I should mention that firenewts weren't really on our radar as a department (despite the fact that I designed them for the 3rd Edition Monsters of Faerûn) until we started talking about Elemental Evil. Trying to think about monsters that are strongly associated with the four elements but not actually from an Elemental Plane turned out to be challenging when we got to fire. There are plenty of flying, aquatic, and burrowing monsters in D&D to cover the other three elements, including humanoid races. But fire?

Enter the firenewt. They are a reptilian humanoid race, distant relatives of lizardfolk who live in sun-baked rocky hills, volcanic regions, and other hot and dry locales. A firenewt is a mottled sepia color, darkest along the spine and fading to near-white on the belly. Its skin is smooth like an eel's, but dry, and its rounded snout likewise resembles a moray eel. Their eyes are deep crimson.

Firenewts are more advanced, technologically and socially speaking, than lizardfolk. They wear metal armor and wield manufactured weapons. Their hierarchical social order has an overlord at the top and elite warriors leading smaller raiding parties. Their "priests" are druids, fond of spells such as heat metal and produce flame.

As you might expect, firenewts are resistant to fire. They have a very limited breath weapon that targets a single adjacent foe with fire damage.

Firenewts live off the labors of other races, raiding and plundering for the supplies they need, including humanoid flesh for food. They enjoy taking captives and delight in torturing and roasting victims alive before eating them. They're natural servants of Elemental Fire, which seeks the transformation of the world through fiery destruction. Since they inhabit regions favored by cults of Elemental Fire (including volcanoes), they're often assimilated into the cult as foot soldiers—and cavalry.

You see, firenewts are known for their mounts, called giant striders. They were originally described as "large flightless, featherless birds" and compared to ostriches, but I confess that when I hear that description I think "dinosaur!" I picture them as something like a velociraptor or dromaeosaurus, but with front arms so short and close to the body as to be almost unnoticeable.

Giant striders are adapted for life in the hottest regions. They're immune to fire—in fact, fire actually heals them. They have two small glands, one beside each eye, that can produce a small fireball once an hour. Otherwise, they attack with a bite or a kick.

Flumph

Small Aberration (?)
Alignment: Lawful good
Level: Low
Environment: ?

It's sort of a cross between a jellyfish and a sea urchin, maybe? A flumph has a white, saucer-shaped body, about 2 feet in diameter, with a mouth at the center of the upper side, flanked by a long eyestalk. Its underside is a mass of small spikes and tentacles. It flies by sucking air in its mouth and propelling it out the underside, sort of like a jellyfish through water.

It can repel attack by squirting a vile-smelling liquid at an attacker, causing the creature to flee in disgust. When all else fails, it can drop down to skewer an enemy with the spikes on its underside. The tentacles add acid to injury, causing additional ongoing damage.

Flumphs are intelligent (average human intelligence) and social, traveling in flocks (pods? schools? blooms? broods? smacks?) of 6 to 12 individuals.

So much for what the Fiend Folio tells us. Yeah, seriously—there's not a hint of story in there. Second Edition didn't give us much more, except to describe how they hunt small animals (rats, lizards, frogs) and to introduce the "monastic flumph," a variety that "gathers in cloisters to share knowledge and to worship deities unknown to humanoids." They're more intelligent and can cast cleric spells.

To me, the nomadic hunters described as the baseline flumphs in 2nd Edition sound more like predatory animals than intelligent, lawful good creatures. The monastic flumphs are a little more interesting, so let's explore that as the default flumph—a social creature with an interest in collecting knowledge and serving strange deities.

One of the roles that good-aligned monsters fall into pretty easily is as a source of information that's hard to find elsewhere. If flumphs are collectors of knowledge, then they fit neatly into that role. But what kind of knowledge do they collect? And how do they collect it? I'm having a hard time imagining them poring over dusty old tomes.

So try this on for size: Flumphs are psionically sensitive. They can detect psionic activity from quite a distance away. Maybe they even feed on it. They're often found near creatures that use psionics, particularly mind flayers. More importantly, they can "overhear" telepathic communication from a significant distance, so they know a lot about what's going on in a nearby mind flayer enclave, or what a particular mind flayer is saying to its thralls. They lurk on the outskirts of aboleth cities, near githyanki enclaves, and even near enormous colonies of psionically-active yellow mold, and they can provide adventurers with abundant information about any of these things. They're much weaker than most of these monsters, so they can't do much against them by themselves.

That story supports identifying them as aberrations (which certainly matches their appearance), suggests an underground environment (which matches the "any dark" shown in their 2nd Edition monster entry), and ties them to some of the most iconic monsters in the game. It gives adventurers a reason to deal with them, and suggests that they can actually carry on a (telepathic) conversation themselves.

What Do You Think?

That wasn't easy. How did I do? For these, I'm less interested in how well the descriptions square with their (limited) history in the game than I am in how well they'll fit into your game.

Previous Poll Results

How do you think this description of cambions squares with their history in the game?
1—It belongs in the depths of the lower planes. 37 4%
2—It’s not working for me at all. 60 5%
3—It could work, but it needs improvement first. 290 23%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using cambions in my game. 627 50%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use cambions in my game. 207 16%
Total 1221 100.0%

Should we be leaning toward one of the more concrete expressions of cambions in the game’s history?
• I want to see the very hellish cambions of 4th Edition continue to exist specifically. 95 8%
• I want to see the half-demon cambion of 1st Edition continue to exist specifically. 138 11%
• I want them both to continue as distinct monsters, not lumped together. 336 27%
• I like the way you’ve reconciled them both under one name. 647 51%
Total 1216 100.0%

How do you think this description of draegloths squares with their history in the game?
1—It’s an abomination. 33 3%
2—It’s not working for me at all. 91 7%
3—It could work, but it needs improvement first. 240 19%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using a draegloth in my game. 596 47%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use a draegloth in my game. 253 20%
Total 1213 100.0%

How do you think this description of tieflings squares with their history in the game?
1—A foul sulfurous odor pervades the air around it. 54 4%
2—It’s not working for me at all. 96 8%
3—It could work, but it needs improvement first. 330 26%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can suddenly imagine using tieflings (monsters or PCs) in my game. 498 39%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use a tiefling (monster or PC) in my game. 257 20%
Total 1235 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
Comments
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What would I change about the Flumph? Well, the name for starters. At this point they sound like one of the cuter animals from pokemon, the ones that bounce up and down and have attacks that put their opponents to sleep. Alignment for 2.

From the physical description they are much more Lovecraftian. They remind me much more of creatures like the Flying Polyp. If you must keep their alignment, make them creatures of unimaginable knowledge, so that while always acting in the interest of goodness and law, the players may not always understand them.
  
Posted By: Edgukator (10/28/2013 2:39:41 AM)
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Firenewts - One way to make them more of a threat, instead of just another humanoid raider, is perhaps they or their mounts carry spores, seeds or something else that spreads the elemental fire plane. So where they go the land becomes hot and barren, eventually becoming desert then lava. This happens over time, but it means regular Druids and the other elements will be actively trying to stop them, or encourage others to do so.

On the fire planes are they as common as elementals? being the workers, slaves and warriors for the red dragons, efreeti and fire giants that dwell there? are they involved as mercenaries in the Salamander vs Azer war?

Flumph - i'd go for Pods, makes them like dolphins. To continue that analogy, make them hang around areas of magical or psionic activity, trying to help pc races with visions, dreams etc, against the magical/psionic predators, the sharks if you will-Mind Flayers and Githyanki.

Perhaps they serve the nature deities ... (see all)
  
Posted By: BlakeRyan (9/14/2013 8:44:18 AM)
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0.51.01.52.02.53.03.54.04.55.0

 


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