by Joshua Cole (Dragon #324)
Grippli resemble small, intelligent, humanoid tree frogs. Primitive and largely peaceful, grippli lead a simple existence. Living off the bounty of the swamps and rainforests they inhabit, they spend their days hunting insects and gathering fruit. Warlike races that neighbor grippli settlements soon learn to avoid them as, although they rarely attack anything but insects, the grippli prove effective and mobile defenders of their homes and keep few possessions worth the risk of pillaging.
Grippli live in isolated family groups, clustered into loose villages led by an elder priestess known as the tribe mother. These families tend to be small, as the long-lived grippli produce few offspring. Grippli devoutly follow the decisions of the tribe mother. In theory, this elder priestess holds divinely granted power over her village. In practice, she rarely exerts that power, leaving the day-to-day leadership of the tribe to its most experienced hunters, often elder males. Grippli tribes require little governance in any case, each family making most of its own decisions, barring religious matters and a village-wide crisis or dispute.
Few grippli apply themselves as craftsmen or artisans. Simple wood, stone, and vine creations make up the majority of the weapons grippli use in hunting and defense, while they pass rare metal weapons and tools down through the generations as treasured heirlooms. Grippli rarely fashion even the simplest trade goods and more rarely do their spellcasters craft complex magic items, although potions, alchemical creations, and herbal tinctures are quite common.
Unscrupulous traders sometimes take advantage of the grippli, selling them worthless baubles in return for rare and valuable herbs, unguents, and extracts from the deep jungle. The grippli don't see themselves as getting taken advantage of, though. They understand the value outsiders place on their purchases, but they in turn prize brightly colored curios. Polished quartz, vibrantly dyed cloths, colored glass, and eclectic collections of foreign signs brighten the majority of grippli homes.
Besides the rare trader, the grippli deal only with the insects they hunt and the giant snakes and spiders that hunt them. Such giants seem to favor the taste of grippli flesh and frequently attack grippli communities. Lizardfolk and kuo-toa also sometimes hunt grippli, although both races have strict taboos against eating the smaller humanoids' flesh. The enmity between these races seems to date to their distant pasts, perhaps even to some conflict between their gods.
The origins and history of the grippli are shrouded in mystery, even to themselves. As grippli do not keep records, except for those relevant to their worship, their past remains a subject of conjecture and guesswork. The prevailing theory holds that grippli exist now much as always, a humble race of peaceful recluses content with what the land provides and the world they know. This surprising peacefulness seems to stem from their simple faith in their nameless froglike goddess. With the land providing them all they need and a faith to further content their modest lives, the grippli have had little need to change over the centuries.
Personality: In the presence of strangers, grippli become noticeably skittish. They usually climb the nearest tree and hide upon spotting other humanoids or any other creature deemed dangerous. Among their own kind or those they accept as friends, grippli show their true character. Light-hearted and cheerful, they value familial bonds and the simple pleasures of food, games, rest, and shiny objects from the outside world. Other humanoids sometimes perceive relaxed grippli as blasé, even lazy, but a relaxed grippli might snap to full alertness at a moment's notice.
Although reluctant warriors, grippli are far from cowardly or inept in combat. When forced to fight, they do so cunningly and viciously, leaving surviving assailants with no doubt about the danger of attacking again. Thus, tales of grippli fighting ability keeps them safe from most of their enemies, as the latter consider an assault upon the grippli's secluded homes not worth the risk, assuming they can find the grippli in the first place.
Physical Description: A typical grippli stands 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall and weighs approximately 30 lbs, although the very old and particularly powerful hunters might stand and weigh twice that. A grippli's head and body appear similar to those of a giant frog, but its hands and feet look humanlike. Grippli skin color varies dramatically depending on their environment, ranging from the brown-splotched green of swamp grippli to vibrant blues, yellows, and reds of rainforest-dwelling tribes. Grippli rarely wear clothing, although they often decorate themselves with jewelry and trinkets that members of most other races consider gaudy.
Grippli reach adulthood at 30 years and live to around 180 years old, while females live slightly longer on average than males. A female grippli gives birth at most six times in her life, becoming fertile at roughly 25-year-intervals after she reaches maturity.
Relations: Grippli rarely interact with outsiders, as they live in the deepest regions of the wilds. If they have any outside interaction, it is with individuals of other races, and almost never on the level of a societal alliance. They sometimes abandon their villages if other races begin settling too close.
When a grippli village does make contact with other races, wild elves or fey often serve as intermediaries, as their strong connection to nature makes the grippli more comfortable around them. However, a grippli's purpose for contacting the outside world rarely has anything to do with nature, as they enjoy strange inventions, masterwork items, and other colorful and shiny objects. As such, grippli sometimes entreat their allies to seek out colonies of gnomes to trade with.
Grippli find dwarves and humans intimidating, too rarely encounter halflings to form an opinion, and deeply fear anything that smells of orc, half-orcs included. They similarly fear giants and savage humanoids, particularly those who share their habitat.
Grippli Lands: Gripphi inhabit deep marshes and remote rainforests, both since these areas hold the giant insects they prey upon and keep them well secluded. They construct small villages either on the ground or in the branches of large trees. Occasionally, a grippli colony might take up residence in the branches of an especially large treant or make a floating community among a marsh's dense river vegetation.
Grippli villages consist of simple huts made from branches or reeds. Most bear decorations, usually shiny objects, simple religious totems, and woven flowering vines. Because the grippli share their environs with many larger, more dangerous creatures, their villages tend to be spread out and semi-nomadic. If one area suffers an attack, all the grippli in the village take to the trees and flee from branch to branch, leaving their few valuables behind. Only when the entire tribe is safely hidden do grippli warriors return to their village to combat their attackers.
Hunting parties of grippli frequently roam the lands near their homes, although their elusive nature and habit of traveling through the trees makes them difficult to spot or track. These hunts serve the dual purposes of scouting the land for signs of intruders and bringing back the massive insects grippli eat or offer to their goddess. Swift, organized, and quick to retreat when outmatched, grippli hunting parties rarely come to harm or even conflict in the deadliest parts of their tangled homes.
Powerful predators, especially green dragons, sometimes enslave whole tribes of grippli. Such grippli usually accept their fate, as their master's protection provides a more formidable defense than any they could maintain. Only when shackled by an especially cruel overlord do grippli make any attempt to overthrow the creature or escape its domination.
Alignment: Their ties to nature and xenophobic tendencies cause grippli to tend toward neutral alignments. Predisposed to simple, relaxed lives with friends and family, the best grippli seem generous and helpful, while the worst merely seem indifferent. Thus, if a grippli deviates from a purely neutral alignment, it's usually in favor of good, and only after the most tragic incidents toward evil.
Religion: Grippli hold strong religious beliefs, although they rarely explain their faith to outsiders. Their chief deity is a nameless goddess, depicted in sculptures of wood and stone as a bulbous frog with vibrant rainbow skin. Most outsiders believe this amphibian deity to be nothing more than some strange, primordial forest spirit, but grippli revere her as the center of their religious lives.
More often druids than clerics, females almost exclusively comprise the grippli clergy. Led by a community's tribe mother, these priestesses make most of the decisions and solve the disputes of the tribe, although they defer to the tribe mother in all matters. Like a stern grandmother, the tribe mother holds absolute authority over the community and speaks as the voice of the goddess herself. Although she always keeps the best intentions of her people in mind, the tribe mother holds many secrets of her people's faith, which she reveals only to her protégé and only when the time of her death nears. The few grippli clerics that exist most often serve abstract natural powers rather than the grippli goddess.
Grippli accord seasonal and celestial events great religious significance and mark them with elaborate religious celebrations that all tribe members participate in. These frequent festivals and general racial levity make it seem that grippli celebrate frivolously, but they truly consider each event worth commemorating. These festivals always culminate in large ceremonies and offerings to the grippli goddess. To outsiders, these ceremonies seem unusually extravagant as mountains of insect flesh, often enough to feed an entire grippli community for a season, are mixed with a strange pulpy paste and burnt as massive offerings. Although no visitor, and perhaps no grippli but the tribe mother, knows what this holy unguent consists of, preparations of all offerings include liberal treatment with this mixture.
Grippli don't keep their ritual celebrations secret from other races - indeed, the arrival of fey visitors ranks high among their reasons to celebrate. Unfortunately, most outsiders cannot physically participate in these revels, which consist primarily of climbing, swimming, and tree-hopping competitions and amphibian-voiced songs.
In a dark undertone to peaceful grippli life, some sages postulate that the grippli's nameless goddess might disguise an ancient aspect of Blibdoolpoolp, goddess of the kuo-toa. If so, the aspect venerated by the grippli presents itself as a far more peaceful one, although there might lurk some more sinister aspect to their worship than the grippli allow outsiders to witness. Spider and snake creatures round out the grippli religion as demons and evil spirits. The few grippli who know of the deities of other races consider the spidery drow goddess Lolth the chief enemy of their people, but she and her followers pay the grippli little, if any, heed. Each grippli village also venerates legendary hunters and priestesses, but none of these mythic figures transcend the boundaries of individual tribes.
Language: Throaty and guttural, grippli language consists of a wide range of croaks and rumbling words, all of which sound roughly the same to other humanoids. Although other races might learn the grippli language, they cannot truly master it without the aid of magic. The common grippli knows no written language, although the priestesses of a community know and read Undercommon. Writing, however, is strictly taboo and only the tribe mother may create any record.
Names: Grippli receive no surnames, although those who travel extensively often pick up nicknames from other races. These nicknames sometimes reflect an individual grippli's abilities or personality. More often than not, these nicknames reflect the other humanoids' notions of grippli as sharing traits with non-humanoid amphibians. Grippli do not place much importance on names, as they identify each other more by sight than by words. Many struggle to remember the names of non-grippli but have no trouble differentiating between individuals by other means.
Male Names: Brillup, Buligup, Chirk, Labliup, Quortle, Rublup, Willup.
Female Names: Bellum, Kaillum, Que, Quon, Ruue, Toum, Wuon.
Nicknames: Buldgeeye, Deepcroak, Duskskipper, Ponddiver, Tonguesticker, Treeskipper, Widefingers.
Adventurers: Survivors of devastated grippli villages most often become adventurers. Having lost their original tribes, they wander to find new meaning and are forced to overcome their fears of the outside world. Other grippli rarely take to life on the road. Those who do earn their keep with their agility, climbing ability, wilderness expertise, and in some cases, with their willingness to accept payment that other adventurers would consider beneath notice.
Occasionally, a young grippli might become taken with the shiny baubles of the outside world and go adventuring in search of more. If he survives, such a grippli usually retires to his village at a relatively young age, as he is motivated more by wanderlust and curiosity than by greed.
Grippli Racial Traits
- +2 Dexterity, -2 Strength: Grippli are nimble and quick, but slight. Well adjusted to darting through trees and lurking in the underbrush, grippli avoid direct confrontation and exertion.
- Small: As a Small creature, a grippli gains a +1 size bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, and a +4 size bonus on Hide checks, but he uses smaller weapons than humans use, and his lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of a Medium character.
- Grippli base land speed is 20 feet.
- Grippli have a climb speed of 20 feet granting them the usual +8 racial bonus on Climb checks.
- Low-Light Vision: A grippli can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. He retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
- Weapon Familiarity: Grippli treat bolas and nets as martial weapons rather than exotic weapons.
- +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against vermin: Grippli are trained to hunt insects of all sizes as they are their food of choice.
- +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against monsters of the animal and vermin types: This bonus represents special training grippli undergo while on the hunt, learning techniques that allow them to avoid the attacks of a variety of natural predators. Any time a creature loses its Dexterity bonus (if any) to Armor Class, such as when it's caught flat-footed, it loses its dodge bonus, too.
- +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison: Although not themselves poisonous, grippli have a high resistance against toxins.
- +4 racial bonus on Jump checks: Grippli are natural leapers, often jumping from tree to tree. In addition, grippli treat all Jump checks as though they have a running start.
- +2 racial bonus on Move Silently checks: Grippli are taught from a young age how to slink through their verdant homes and avoid detection by predators.
- Illiterate: Grippli, even wizards, cannot read or write without devoting skill points to languages. A grippli of any class can learn to read and write one of his starting languages by devoting a single skill point to it. Otherwise grippli gain the use of languages - speaking, reading, and writing - as normal for their class.
- Automatic Languages: Common and Grippli. Bonus Languages: Aquan, Elven, Gnome, Halfling, Sylvan, and Undercommon. Grippli often learn the languages of the few races they comfortably deal with.
- Favored Class: Ranger. A multiclass grippli's ranger class does not count when determining whether he suffers an experience point penalty.
|Random Starting Ages|
|Middle Age||Old||Venerable||Maximum Age|
|70 years||105 years||140 years||+4d20 years|
|Random Height and Weight|
|Gender||Base Height||Weight Modifier||Base Weight||Weight Modifier|
|Male||1'10"||+2d4||20 lb.||x1 lb.|
|Female||1'7"||+2d6||15 lb.||x1 lb.|