The grippli are one of the most talked-about races on the message-boards, so I thought I’d play with it. The fifth of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, I’m playing with some themes for the grippli, and doing a little bit with mechanics.
Though they build no cities and claim no territory, the grippli are among the most feared races in the world. Individually, they pose little harm, and most of the time grippli have little interest in associating with anyone outside of their family unit, others of their kind included. When they gather, however, few forces can stand against them.
Most grippli families live in small groups in wild places, providing for themselves by hunting and trading. For them, however, family is not a function of blood. Once a year, grippli migrate to ancestral pools to mate. Once, these pools were left behind by adult grippli, and the young were allowed to hatch and grow on their own. Now, however, the grippli understand that they have enemies, and each year the mating pools are guarded by a cadre of grippli either too young or too old to participate, who watch over the tadpoles until they reach adolescence, perform their guard duties, and go on their own into the wider world.
Bonds of Trust
Despite the mating habits of the grippli, they do fall in love. Grippli love comes in many varieties, from camaraderie to romantic attachment, but it is always separate from sex. It is, instead, connected to trust. Because the grippli are dispersed throughout the Summerlands, without a home of their own, they cling tightly to the people they trust, and do not trust easily, even other grippli. A grippli might watch a potential ally for days before revealing themselves, carefully weighing every action. Once a grippli does give its trust, however, the bond is nearly unbreakable. This is how grippli family units are formed. Once formed, a grippli family moves together, fights together, lives and dies together. While grippli mate for just a moment at a time, when a family bond is formed, it is for life.
When the grippli go to war, its scale is either intimate or catastrophic. When a family is threatened, it will go to war to defend its members, and it may be joined by a few nearby allies. When the forests and swamps of the Summeralnds are threatened, however, the grippli go to war as a nation. When they do, leaders are chosen and ranks are formed: the grippli know their business, and want nothing more than to finish their task and return to their lives. Unlike other races, however, who make war with hiding beasts and mighty weapons, the grippli use stealth, poison, and their bows. While a reven army might make paste of an equivalent force of grippli on an open field of battle, the grippli never allow that to happen. They fight from secret, using terror and thinning their foes’ ranks with poison and disease, until their enemy can fight no longer. This is the only reason grippli congregate in large numbers.
In smaller numbers, grippli form communities in particularly large cities with parks or sub-urban communities where grippli can make their homes. In Dragon Tyr, the grippli are a political force, though the role of Council Speaker is not a position of pride, but rather an onerous civic duty. In cities, many grippli move away from their traditional hunting and gathering roles, and find success as alchemists, thieves, and spies.
Grippli names are never tied clans or families, but are usually a single word with meaning in their tongue. Outsiders can’t tell the difference between male and female names, and often can’t distinguish between grippli names and other words in their language. Male Names: Brooaka (“Hunter on high”), Choraka (“Hunter from below”), Jipjiptoo (“Speaking and speaking with clarity”), Vreeto (“Prizes clarity”). Female Names: Hurrupana (“Slayer of the hated foe”), K’k’k’lock’k (“Many running waters”), Groakarup (“Hunter of her enemy’s heart”)
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Young grippli are born tadpoles and grow into full-grown grippli over the course of a few months, reaching adulthood within a year. The natural lifespan of a grippli is 50 years.
Alignment. Grippli typically reject the structures and rules of society, and tend towards chaotic alignments. Lawful grippli, while rare, tend to look for other societies to join, and are incredibly effective managers and lawbringers. The battles between good and evil are uninteresting to most grippli, who are concerned only with survival and defending their homes from depredation. Grippli who lean towards good do this out of a purity of spirit, while evil grippli are more likely to hunt and kill would-be despoilers, often before they have a chance to act.
Size. Grippli average between 3 and 4 feet, but stoop slightly, and weigh about 30 pounds. Your size is small.
Speed. Your base walking and climbing speed is 20 feet.
Chameleon Skin. You have advantage on Dexterity (stealth) checks made to hide in forest and swamp environments.
Leaper. Your long jump is up to 20 feet and your high jump is up to 10 feet, and you are always considered to have a running start.
Poison. All grippli secrete a poison from a gland in their mouth to aid in hunting. You can apply this poison to a weapon or piece of ammunition as an action. The poison lasts for 1 hour, or until the weapon hits. On a hit, the target must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. Once you have used this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
Grippli weapon training. You have proficiency with blowguns, rapiers, and shortbows.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Grippli. The Grippli language is spoken from the throat, and what sounds like a single word to outsiders is often a number of smaller words joined together to create a new one. The grippli word for the reven, for example, is a combination of the words for “dragon” and “walk.” Grippli art is a private matter, as is most of their lives, but anyone who has spent time near a grippli knows the sound of their songs, long, beautiful paeans that sometimes last from dusk until dawn.
When creating a grippli character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.
|1||The bond of family is the most important bond there is, and the family I have made must be protected.|
|2||I am the forest’s first line of defense, and the best defense is a brutal offense.|
|3||The thrill of the hunt keeps me alive, and I am always looking for bigger and better game.|
|4||Everything in my life is an excuse to experiment with alchemical formulas.|
|5||We are not animals – I defend my world and my family through diplomacy.|
|6||The forest exists because the dragons allow it, and I serve the will of the dragons in all things.|
You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your heritage among the frogs and giant frogs of the swamps, as well as abilities that will one day be common to all grippli. You gain the following abilities:
- Increase your Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
- Your size becomes medium, and your base walking and climbing speeds are 30 feet.
- Your poison becomes more potent. Your target must succeed at a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned. Any target who is affected by your poison can not regain hit points while they are poisoned. In addition, the target’s speed is halved while they are poisoned.
- You can cast invisibility. When casting invisibility in this way, you can only target yourself, and your invisibility has a duration of concentration, up to 2 rounds. This use of invisibility does not affect any spellcasting from other classes. After you use your invisibility, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
- You are proficient in the longbow.
Hacking the Grippli
While this version of the grippli are rooted in the Summerlands, they fit in anywhere. Their abilities are pretty straightforward, and only the poison would add to their challenge rating, if they were an opponent.
Without the poison, they’re just like any hidden forest race: this could work for fey, or bullywugs, or others.
I feel like my real experiment, here, is the feat. Should a small race like the grippli be able to grow? What would that mean, in game terms? Small races don’t have the same advantages and disadvantages in 3rd edition; size isn’t so locked in to the mechanics. Why not grow, gain a little strength, use longbows, walk a little faster? Can the same experiment be performed with gnomes or halflings? Is it worth a feat, or more than a feat?
The change to large would be more significant, I think, but only because of range.
The grippli are one of two races without a homeland, but there’s no stigma about it, for them. They’re seen as part of the world. The tunder are different: fey no one trusts. I was a little worried about having both of them in the same setting, but I think it works, because they’re viewed differently by the races around them. Also, the names. I could make up grippli names all day.