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[Let's Read] 4e Dragon & Dungeon Magazine: Monster Articles

MoutonRustique

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For me these are essential articles : we're always told about lost warmachines, how they ravaged the land, how there were weapons so powerful that ... and on, and on. But we so rarely are shown what these would be.

This stuff is awesome - and it really sells it to players trying to stop one from coming under the wrong hands (or getting in theirs!). I dig it.
 

VoidDrifter

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...Wow! I did NOT see that response coming! So surprised to see the love this article got, but also so happy!

Okay, let's move on to the next issue, with Dragon #420's Fey of Wood and Wind!

Opening Thoughts:
The "little people" of D&D have always been kind of forgettable. Oh, we've had more petty faeries and fey-kin than I can honestly name - I would like a full fledged list, if anyone out there who knows AD&D better than I do is willing - but the brownies and nixies and atomies and sprites and pixies have always just faded into the background.

This article revives the concept by examining three of the more minor fey. They're not world-shaking archfey, or even village-threatening monsters; they're mostly to color the Feywild or those places in the mortal realms that are close to Fey Crossings. The article admits that outright, with an opening I'll quote below. But that doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing; flavorful monsters aren't a bad things.

This article benefits from its late position in 4e's lifespan. Published in the February 2013 issue of Dragon, it benefited from both the existence of the Monster Manual 3 - which had revived certain classic fey itself, most prominently the nymph, and given them all extended monster lore compared to the first MM - and the existence of Heroes of the Feywild. This means each article is accompanied by a short, in-universe fairytale talking about the specific fey.

'Fey of Wood and Wind' said:
In old cupboards and walls, beneath the thick underbrush of Faerie forests, in enchanted crystal caves, wee fey make their homes in places the big folk do not tread. High among the drifting clouds above the Feywild, their airy cousins play their way across the skies. Some of these fey folk are shy observers that dwell on the boundaries of mortal domains; others are mischievous tricksters that observe no boundaries whatever. In a land of stories and wishes-come-true, where witches turn heroes into hermit crabs and where eladrin in shining raiment wage war against twisted giants, these fey of wood and wind keep out of sight, often unnoticed by the larger world.

Theirs is not to fight in mighty battles or solve the innumerable riddles of the cosmos. Some such fey were born to beautify the natural landscape and grace the eternal skies; others, to make music and bring good cheer to every creature great and small; the humblest, to mend the tattered edges of others’ lives without expectation of thanks or reward.

Brownies: Live And Let Live
Humbleness is not exactly a virtue that most associate with the fey, but brownies are the exception. Inoffensive, gentle-natured, meek and humble, brownies struggle to defend themselves in the dangers of the wilderness. Not only has this made them homebodies by nature, but it has also shaped them into a race of fey symbionts; to compensate for their lack of skill in farming and hunting, as well as their small size, brownies inhabit the lairs of other, bigger creatures, working to sustain and assist their host in exchange for security and scraps of food (which are much more generous to such a small fey).

In the Feywild, they are found in the dens and caves of woodland beasts, or the lairs of larger fey such as nymphs or dryads. They have even been known to colonize the hulking wooden forms of treants. But they have also spread quite heavily into the mortal world, where they take up residence in attics, between walls, inside of cellars and chimneys, beneath floorboards, behind furniture, in the gloomy backs of closets, on top of cupbards, under eaves and rafters... really, anywhere that a humanoid won't notice them.

In appearance, a brownie resembles a miniature elf, lacking the wings that characterize their pixie and sprite relatives. This, and their propensity for living inside of humanoid houses, has led to the common nickname of "house elves". Though flightless, they retain a surprisingly diverse array of magical abilities, and have an unusual affinity for domestic animals; even the most vicious dog or malicious cat will never hurt a brownie.

As stated above, brownies work on an informal system of barter; in exchange for various scraps, odds and ends, and the occasional humble bite of food, brownies contribute to the house's maintenance and upkeep. Common actions include mending clothing, cleaning, repairing shingles and hinges, and cleaning up. Their retiring nature means they wish to be left alone; if they feel threatened or forced to do things by their host, or if their host deliberately makes the home unwelcome to them, the brownies will pack up and leave in search of somewhere with more open-handed inhabitants. A landlord who treats them kindly and respects their privacy will enjoy a lifetime of loyal service from contented brownies.

Despite their inoffensive nature, brownies have a strong territorial streak, and are far from helpless. If their chosen lair is attacked, brownies will fight viciously to protect it. They may lack direct combat skills, but their skillful application of trickery, mischief, enchantment spells and illusions allows them to bedevil foes, and they take great sport in confounding invaders. They steal food, treasure, and weapons, or dismantle armor and tie bootstraps together. They use love charms to embarrass and befuddle their foes, and sleeping charms to render intruders helpless while the brownies strip them bare and remove them from the premises. Brownies might choose to make their presence known by firing a barrage of insults at those they wish to repel. No one who suffers the antics and pranks of a brownie pack soon forgets the experience, and they have often been mistaken for poltergeists or even bound demons!

We're not told what particular races or classes brownies are willing to live alongside, but we are told that brownies despise goblins, and have a particular hatred for boggles - a fey goblinoid with the ability to create portals it can reach through to grab or manipulate things from far away, which was introduced in "Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale". Brownies particularly enjoy cutting off boggle fingers if they try and steal from the brownie's home. Such in the enmity they bear that goblins and boggles alike both fear the smaller fey, and will actually hesitate to enter any dwelling where they are known to exist.

The fairytale (or "Bard's Tale", as they are called both in Heroes of the Feywild and here) for the brownie is called, simply, "Three Brownies". It describes a band of three brownies trying to find a home.

Their first attempt is at the manor of a wealthy but stingy merchant, who is so gluttonous that he leaves no scraps for them, and so spoiled he never even notices their presence. So they move on.

Their next attempt is at the house of a smith, who turns out to be petty and spiteful; he buys ten cats and sets them loose, hoping they'll drive the brownies away - this fails, because cats will never hurt brownies, but the brownies realize they are unwanted and move on again.

Their third attempt is at the hovel of a poor tailor, who nonetheless has a good heart and a generous nature. They make his home quite livable, and then the merchant and the smith both visit in turn, each needing their clothes repaired - the former from eating too much, the latter from the cats tearing them up. The tailor uses the silver he gets from each man to buy a tidy little house in the country, where he and the brownies live happily ever after.

Uniquely for this article, we are presented with two stats for brownies. A set of monster stats for the brownie, and mechanics for a brownie familiar, with a brief blurb that despite their shyness, brownies do sometimes reveal themselves to wizards with whom they choose to dwell.

The Brownie is statted as a level 1 Controller with HP 28, AC 15, Fort 11, Ref 15, and Will 13. They are a Tiny Fey Humanoid with Speed 5, Low-Light Vision, and the Trait "Blend In" (can attempt a Stealth check to hide even with only partial cover or partial concealment).

They have two at-will powers:
* Short Sword (Standard Action): Melee 1, +6 vs AC, 1d6+6 (2d6+6 if target grants combat advantage) and the brownie can slide the target 1 square.
* Disorientate (Minor Action, 1/round): Melee 1, +4 vs. Will, the target falls prone whenever it moves more than half its speed (save ends).

And three Encounter powers:
* Dimension Door (Move Action): The brownie teleports up to 10 squares.
* Ventriloquism (Minor Action): Ranged 10 (one object, unoccupied square, or creature); the brownie causes a sound as quiet as a whisper or as loud as yelling to emanate from the target. Creatures that fail a DC 12 Insight check think the target made the sound.
* Mirror Image (Minor Action): Three images of the brownie appear in its space, and the brownie gains a +6 power bonus to AC. Each time an attack misses the brownie, one of its images disappears and the bonus granted by this power decreases by 2. When the bonus reaches 0, all the brownie’s images are gone and the power ends. Otherwise, the effect lasts for 1 hour.

As a Familiar, a brownie has low-light vision and speed 5, it grants its master a +2 bonus to Stealth and Thievery checks, and when active, it becomes an Unseen Servant; it turns invisible and can move, manipulate and carry objects that weigh up to 25 pounds.


Grigs: Mischievous Musicians
Part of the sprite family, which also include pixies and nixies, grigs are characterized physically by their "cricket legs"; the article doesn't describe this in more detail, but the article image shows a grig as basically a centaur-like hybrid of fairy and cricket, with cricket antennae atop their head.

Three things define the grigs. The first is their manic energy; grigs seems to live in perpetual motion, and any rest is short-lived before they're up and going again. The most tranquil behavior of which they're capable consists of leaping, somersaulting and dancing themselves into dizzy circles,

The second is their love of music. They're the finest fiddlers in all of Faerie, and they claim to be superior to any fiddler anywhere else as well. They have a natural aptitude for music, and their inventive minds compose their tunes rapidly and spontaneously. Of course, it doesn't hurt that every grig has wings akin to those of a male cricket's, with a ridged vein of the forewing that acts as a bow when rubbed against the "strings" - the hardened underside - of its top wings. This ability to chirp a variety of notes in different pitches means grigs of all sexes can easily create unique counterpoints to their fiddling. They are natural bards, with the ability to intuitively weave magic into their playing the same way other bards do so with threads of story and song. Not only does this make them virtuoso performers, but it enables them to compel any creature to forget itself in dance, from the tiniest beetle to the biggest bulette.

No wonder, then, that the sidhe lords and archfey alike regularly employ grigs to perform for them, especially during the festivals of the Court of Stars. Of course, there's another reason for that... see, when a grig is busy making music, it's not able to go about making mischief.

That's the third thing that defines grigs; their love of mischief. Though many fey revel in tricks and games, grigs practice their sport relentlessly. For them, mischief is existence. They collapse tents and pilfer trinkets; they glue swords into their scabbards or draw rude illustrations in the margins of wizards’ spellbooks; they rearrange the furniture in houses and affix the chairs to the walls or ceiling. They might coat someone’s possessions in sticky pine sap or poke tiny holes in flagons so that the brew dribbles out. Just before yawning mortals drift off to sleep, grigs rub their wings together to emit shrill chirps, startling the weary folk from slumber.

Because their fellow fey are well-versed in how to handle them, grigs particularly enjoy messing with "the big folk" of the mortal realms, and are the most likely to bedevil and plague those unfortunate enough to stumble into the Feywild by accident. Worse still, grigs are natural provacateurs; pushing back against their jests only increases the merriment of the grig, who will usually be hiding nearby to watch the results, and will encourage it to further trickery. The proper way to handle a grig is through patience; they quickly grow bored with unresponsive targets and move on.

That said, as annoying they can be, a grig's mischief is not born of intentional malice. When a person takes offense to being the subject of amusement, a grig will usually make amends out of shame, typically by offering a small gift - usually in the form of rare Faerie honey or a fey token, a form of minor enchanted item ubiquitous throughout the Feywild, which was introduced in Heroes of the Feywild.

Grigs are not violent creatures; they have no desire to engage in battle, and will avoid conflicts where they can - one of the reasons why they're so willing to apologize for their pranks. But the Feywild is dangerous, and the grigs have had to learn to defend themselves against bigger creatures - especially with how often they tend to inspire grudges. They equip themselves with tiny dagger-like swords, which they wield with exceptional accuracy. Grigs are as quick at war as they are at play, leaping from one place to another, stabbing with the rapid pace of a fiddle’s bow. The same perpetual energy that drives their mischief and their music turns carefree grigs into vicious enemies of any fool that forces them to fight.

The bard's tale for this creature is "The Merry Grig". It tells of a grig who lived on a farm, whose owner, Tom Farmer, was a sourpuss of a man - which naturally encouraged the grig to great mischief. One day, the grig decided to scare the man by letting out a bloodcurdling wail as he picked a cabbage, causing the farmer to run for his life. Tom Farmer realized he had been tricked, and decided to wait in the far fields; he knew the grig would conduct the crickets' evening symphony there after sunset, and he planned to stuff the grig in a sack and teach it a lesson. But the grig spied the farmer, and pulled another prank; when Tom Farmer returned home after a fruitless night, he found that the grig had let out all of his animals and led tem on a wild dance through Tom's farmhouse, before leaving them all sitting quietly on his roof, leaving Tom with not even the foggiest idea on how to get them all down.

Mechanically, a Grig is a Level 1 Skirmisher, with HP 26, AC 15, Fort 12, Ref 15, and Will 13. It is a Tiny Fey Humanoid with Speed 5 and Low-light vision, which has access to four attack powers, all usable as standard actions:
* Dagger (At-Will): Melee 1, +6 vs. AC, 2d4+4 damage.
* Leaping Attack (At-Will): The grig shifts up to half its speed, gaining a +5 bonus to all defenses, and uses Dagger once at any point during this movement.
* Fiddler's Dance (Encounter): Close Burst 3 (Enemies), +4 vs. Will, the target must move half its speed as a free action and is dazed until the end of the grig's next turn. This power can be sustained as a standard action, repeating itself exactly each time it is sustained.
* Fade Out (Encounter): The grig becomes invisible until it hits or misses with an attack or until the end of its next turn.


Pixies: Children At Heart
These are a surprising entry, given that pixies appeared in Heroes of the Feywild as a PC race. But here they are.

The epitome of the flying magical "fairies" that mortals describe in songs, dreams and stories, pixies are made of magic and summer, imbued with merry laughter, child-like whimsy, and steadfast care by the archfey - indeed, Heroes of the Feywild states that they are the descendants of a daughter of Tiandra, the Summer Queen herself, although that lore isn't mentioned here. Magic is part of them, allowing them to speak to beasts, fly, turn invisible, and produce glittering "pixie dust" which can do everything in stories from make creatures fly to lull them to sleep, enchant their eyes with illusions or blind them with a flash of light.

Curious as cats and bold as badgers, pixies are eternally fascinated with the world around them, but seldom daunted by it. They thrive on freedom and search for the fun in every person, place, and object they encounter. Even with all their wild enthusiasm, though, the tiny sprites can be as solemn, graceful, and majestic as any of the mighty archfey they serve. Still, they are at heart a playful, carefree race, living for the sake of having fun. They often conscript other creatures into the games, which ranges from rhymes and puzzles to rough brawling - which can be dangerous, because the excitable sprites are can be heedless of the relative fragility of their mortal playmates. Pixies are most attracted to the wilderness, which resonates with their own wild, carefree souls. Civilization, especially mortal civilization, is to most pixies a dreary place where big folk stumble through lives of endless drudgery, obeying boring rules and laws made up by other big folk that take themselves too seriously.

Like children and cats, pixies are possessive of their friends. They can be jealous and wary of newcomers who threaten to supplant them in a friend’s esteem. Such folk become the victims of pranks and mischief until the sprites are comfortable with them—a pixie might turn invisible and tap on someone’s shoulder, tweak her ear, or pinch his backside, driving the perceived rival to distraction.

Pixies love all children, with whom they feel a special kinship. Mortals who gaze upon pixies often recall the distant dreams of their own childhoods, when play was the only object of their lives and death but a distant stranger. On rare occasions a pixie becomes a self-appointed benefactor to a mortal child, watching over it or granting it a fey gift - an innate magical trick, which also made its debut in Heroes of the Feywild as a form of Alternative Reward. Right-thinking parents are always wary of such attention, however, for pixies have been known to abscond with children that they favor, stealing them away to Faerie to be raised by feykind.

All of this mischief-making has caused the Court of Stars to appoint many strange duties to the pixies who dwell amongst the faerie civilizations, seeking to keep them occupied. Such tasks can include brushing flower petals with morning dew, awakening the winking stars in the night sky, and painting the sunset.

Whilst normal pixies are mostly annoying, they also have a more dangerous counterpart; wild pixies, which are feral tribes (or "frolics", as they're apparently called) that inhabited the isolated areas of the mortal realms and the Feywild. Where pixies of the Court of Stars dress in gossamer and shimmering silk, their wild kin garb themselves in animal fur, fish scales, frog leather, birds’ bones, the leaves and bark of trees, acorns, and other forestfound objects. Though wild pixies have no particular prejudice toward non-fey, they do not consider such beings as equals. A band of wild pixies might toy with a boorish mortal that stumbles upon them until they inadvertently injure (or, in rare cases, slay) their plaything. They might grant the gift of flight only to snatch it away when the person is high in the air, curious to see if the mortal can fly on its own like a fledgling bird falling from its nest.

The bard's tale for this segment is "The Pixie and the Scholar". It tells of a cold-hearted, logic-obsessed scholar who meets a pixie whilst walking in the wood. He asks why the pixie can fly, and is dissatisfied when the pixie responds with a typically fey answer about it being due to the pixie being full of song. So he snatches it up, takes it home, and gruesomely vivisects it, all in the name of learning why it can fly and ultimately failing. Later on, he stumbles into a frolic of bored wild pixies, and seeks to impress them with his many grand hypotheses, postulations and theories. The wild pixies are intrigued, and ask where he gets all his ideas. He tells them that they come from logic, research, inspiration, and a bit of natural genius, before tapping his brow. Wanting to see the marvelous place where the scholar's ideas are made, the wild pixies promptly split his head open with a sharp rock.

Our obligatory monster statblock is the Pixie Ambusher, a Level 2 Lurker with HP 29, AC 16, Fortitude 13, Reflex 16, and Will 14. It's a Tiny Fey Humanoid with Speed 4, Fly 6 (Altitude Limit 1) and Low-Light vision. It has only three powers, all Standard Actions to use.
* Rapier (At-Will): Melee 1, +7 vs. AC, 1d8+5 damage, or 2d8+10 damage if the target could not see the pixie when it attacked.
* Obscuring Dust (At-Will): Ranged 5, 1 creature, the Pixie can attempt a Stealth check to become Hidden from the target.
* Fade Out (Encounter): The pixie becomes invisible until it hits or misses with an attack or until the end of its next turn.


Sylphs: Dancers In The Clouds
In older editions, sylphs were air elementals who happened to look like human-sized versions of the iconic fairy. If you're familiar with the Order of the Stick, you probably have seen a sylph - which makes you amongst the minority who has, because they were a pretty obscure race. 4e skips the semantics and just makes them a fey race that inhabit cloud castles, treetop homes, earthmotes and other arboreal environments throughout the Feywild, and even on occasion in the mortal world.

Tying in neatly to fluff presented for nymphs in the Monster Manual 3, sylphs are descended from that time period, and in fact are cousins to the nymphs. When the brothers of the wind frolicked with the four seasons and conceived the nymphs, one of the brothers couldn't join in. Susurrus, the youngest, was also timid and shy, as well as being "wary of the primordials' tumultuous creation". I'm actually not sure what that's referencing, so double-checking the MM3...

Actually, not enlightening at all. Maybe it's a reference to the fact that this dalliance was occurring during the Dawn War. I don't know.

Anyway, whilst Susurrus' brothers freely ranged across the fledgeling world, he lingered in between the heavens and earth. There, in the dawning light of the world, he met Mist, a gentle daughter of the sky who led him to tranquil places where his voice could be heard. It was in such a place that he whispered to her of his love; they were wed beneath a quiet waterfall, and their daughters were the sylphs.

In addition to being cousins to the nymphs, sylphs are strongly tied to elemental air, since they are descendants of sky and wind. In a neat little mythology gag, it's noted that some do inhabit the Elemental Chaos, and these change their type to Elemental creatures, whilst those in the Feywild remain Fey typed. Their bodies are actually partially made of air and cloud, which gives them unique transformative abilities. This lets them alter their appearance to appear as other beings; those who master their innate air and wind magic are also able to transform into self-propelled clouds or condense themselves, shrinking down to the size of sprites.

In all their lives, sylphs rarely touch the ground. They stay out of sight and reach, avoiding confrontation whenever possible, although a powerful sylph roused to anger can call on the furious storm winds and lightning that are her birthright.

Just like their nymph cousins, sylphs love to play, although they display the iconic air-kin's tendency towards swiftly-shifting whims. In the forests of the Feywild, sylphs dance to the pipes of satyrs or shrink to the size of pixies and attend merry balls in the toadstool rings sacred to the wee fey. On sunny afternoons they traverse the Faerie skies like dancers on an infinite stage, turning pirouettes as they change from swans into songbirds, then back into winged maidens. At night they slip between the stars and fill the constellations with ever-changing shapes. Above the forest, sylphs sometimes ride cumulonimbus clouds across the sky like chariots, bringing thunderstorms and lightning to the world wherever they travel. During a storm, they might sing lamentations for the sorrows of the world. Shepherds can sometimes just make out their voices keening over the highlands and pastures.

The most famous game of the sylphs, however, is wat they call "The Game of Omens". Disguising themselves as clouds, they drift along with the wind until they observe an interesting creature on the ground. They then shift their cloud body into a recognizable shape, waiting for the creature to notice, and then release the form and drift away, so they can then come hide nearby and observe what happens next. The optimal goal, of course, is for the creature to take what they saw as a portent - hence the name. The more cunning sylphs eavesdrop on mortal conversations and then form their cloud shapes accordingly. This enables them to manipulate and entice others to follow suggestions of the sylph without realizing what's going on.

The bard's tale for this segment is "To Hold the Wind". It tells of a lonely young shepherd who loved to watch the sky, imagining that he saw a fair maiden dancing there. One day, a mighty hailstorm pelted his pasture, and amongst the melting, he found that the maiden he thought he had imagined was actually a sylph, now cast down to earth by the storm, limbs bruised and wings torn. Over a period of weeks, he nursed the sylph, whose name he learned was Levene, back to health, and she fell in love with him as he he had done with her. He begged her to stay with him, and she agreed - but only if he would respect her need for freedom.

Unfortunately, the shepherd could not contain his loneliness, for Levene would often travel away to faraway skies in her need to be one with the wind. So, he asked her to marry him - and slipped a ring of cold iron onto her finger when she agreed, binding her forever to stay by her side. But she swiftly sickened, and when he asked why, she told him that her happiness at being with him could not extinguish her need for freedom. He protested that he feared she would have left him if he'd not bound her to stay by her side, and she scolded him that to love another is to hold the wind, never knowing which direction it will blow.

Ashamed, the shepherd removed the ring - and Levene promptly flew away, ignoring his pleas. The story ends with her flying ever farther away from him, and leaves it ambiguous if she left him permanently (as would usually be the case in the real-world myths that inspired this tale), or if maybe she did come back to him some day.

For a statblock, we're presented with the Sylph Windshaper; as a level 3 Controller with HP 42, AC 17, Fortitude 14, Reflex 15 and Will 16, it's the most powerful monster in this article. It's a Medium Fey Humanoid with Speed 6, Fly 6 (Hover) and Low-Light vision. It has three attack powers, all Standard Action, and two utility powers, both Minor Actions

Its attack powers are:
* Wind Slam (At-Will): Melee 2, +6 vs. Reflex, 2d6+4 damage and the sylph slides the target up to 2 squres.
* Wind Blast (At-Will): Close Blast 3 (Enemies), +6 vs. Reflex, 1d8+4 damage and the sylph pushes the target up to 2 squares.
* Thunderstorm (Encounter): Area Burst 2 within 10 (Enemies), +6 vs. Reflex, on a hit does 1d8+4 Lightning & Thunder damage and the target falls prone, on a miss does half damage.

And its utility powers are:
* Mist Form (Recharge 5): The sylph becomes Insubstantial until the end of its next turn.
* Change Shape (At-Will): The sylph alters its physical form to appear as a Tiny, Small, or Medium humanoid until it uses change shape again or until it dies, at which point it reverts to normal form. To assume a specific individual’s form, the sylph must have seen that individual. Other creatures can make a DC 26 Insight check to discern that the form is a disguise.


Closing Thoughts:
This was an excellent article. I have to admit, I've never really been that interested in D&D's fey as a general, since they all tended to be interchangeably bland; either twee as all hell, or just cheesecake fodder. 4th edition turned that mentality around for me, and this article really proves why I loved what they were willing to do. Maybe it's just a side-effect of the statblock leaving more room for fluff, I don't know. But this takes a bunch of faeries I used to not even acknowledge, and actually makes me consider the potential they have. So well done to this article. I wonder if anyone else will enjoy this the way that I did.

Interestingly, the Dungeon issue for this same month, Dungeon #211, features an adventure for a party entirely of 1st level Pixie PCs. Oddly appropriate...
 

VoidDrifter

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Just bumping this thread, at the very least I can make some padding before I next get into this with Creature Incarnations: Mephits, which will be followed by the Ecology of the Gargoyle.
 

Bira

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I like 4e fey, particularly from Heroes of the Feywild onwards. So it was nice to read about these!
 

VoidDrifter

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Now we move on to Dragon #421, with Creature Incarnations: Mephits.

Opening Thoughts:
Mephits were one of the more ubiquitous races of the Elemental Planes in AD&D's Planescape. Sadly, they were also one of the more forgettable. Essentially the elemental version of imps or quasits, there was a mephit for literally every single Elemental, Paraelemental and Quasielemental plane... no, wait, I tell a lie; Vacuum didn't have a mephit to call its own, but Steam made up for it by having two mephit species indigenous to it. They had a few individual characteristics, but were one of the more obviously grid-filling elements of Planescape. Though 3e did come up with some more unique species with the Sand, Sulfur, and Glass Mephits.


Fluff:
Mephits are a small race of imp-like beings native to the Elemental Chaos, divided into various subspecies based on which element they embody; like all elementals in 4th edition, they can be based on either a single element or a fusion of two different varieties. All look small humanoids with wings and a general "impish" mien. Which meshes with their personalities; mischievous and vulgar, they like to make nuisances of themselves.

However, they're also impressionable and eager to please, and their alignments shift easily from their default Unaligned to better serve their masters. They do have a notable inclination to serve evil masters, whose attitudes only encourage and worsen their own negative traits - mephits sworn to evil masters quickly become petty, vindictive miscreants that revel in the suffering of others.

Mephits are frequently summoned by both mortal mages and by elemental creatures to serve them, usually invoking mephits of a kind that would be useful - you wouldn't summon an ice mephit to carry a message across the Sea of Fire, nor a magma or fire mephit to guard a vault within a polar icecap. Though they are not the fiercest opponents, their combination of elemental breath weapon and the ability to regenerate makes them surprisingly tough.

For obvious reasons, mephits are most frequently found in the Elemental Chaos, though summoned mephits not explicitly banished home or mephits who have wandered through portals from that plane often take up residence in the mortal realms.

Because of how short the fluff is for each individual species of mephit is, I'll be quoting each as part of that species' sub-entry in the Crunch section below.


Crunch:
All Mephits are Small Elemental Humanoids with the Regeneration trait, which restores 5 hit points whenever the mephit starts its turn with at least 1 HP. This trait can always be suppressed for 1 turn by either one specific type of damage and a specific situation, or by either of two specific types of damage.

With the exception of the Magma Mephit, which is simply Speed 6, they are all Speed 6 and have a Fly Speed of 6. They all can see with Darkvision.

Air Mephit:
Air mephits prefer to live in places where natural winds constantly blow, such as on mountaintops or along windy shores. They are small creatures whose upper halves are humanoid with wispy wings growing from their shoulder blades. They have no lower limbs, so their midsections seem to sprout from the top of small whirlwinds. Air mephits are more skittish than many of their kin from the other elements. If pressed, they will fight, but they would rather avoid conflict altogether.

Air Mephits are Level 3 Skirmishers, with HP 46, AC 17, Fort 15, Reflex 16, and Will 14. They can Hover and are Immune to Lightning and Poison. Their regeneration can be suppressed by Psychic damage or forcing them to start their turn on the ground. They have the trait Blurred Breeze, which grants them +4 to all defenses when flying. They have two attacks, both Standard Action to use:
* Claws (At-Will): Melee 1, +8 vs. AC, 2d6+4 damage.
* Air Blast (Recharge 5): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +6 vs. Fortitude, 2d8+3 damage and the target is pushed up to 2 squares.

Dust Mephit:
Dust mephits live in extremely arid and dusty areas, such as deserts or abandoned buildings that have not been cleaned in a long time. They have gray, rough skin and seem to secrete dust and grit as they move. Dust mephits are particularly irritating creatures. When forced into combat, they are extremely persistent and do not retreat easily.

Dust Mephits are Level 3 Controllers, with HP 44, AC 17, Fort 14, Ref 16, and Will 15. They are immune to Fire and Poison. Their regeneration can be suppressed by Cold and Psychic damage. They have three attacks:
* Claws (Standard, At-Will): Melee 1, +8 vs. AC, 2d6+4 damage and the mephit can slide the target 1 square.
* Blinding Cloud (Standard, Recharge 5): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +6 vs Reflex, 1d8+4 and the target is blinded until the end of the mephit's next turn.
* Dust Cloud (Minor, Encounter): The dust mephit creates a zone of thick dust in a close burst 1 that lasts until the end of their next turn or which can be sustained as a minor action. The zone is lightly obscured.

Earth Mephit:
Earth mephits prefer to live in caverns far underground—the deeper and darker, the better. Their bodies have dwarflike proportions but are hairless and have large misshapen wings. Earth mephits tend to be less cruel than many of the other mephit types. They are curious about mortals, perhaps because they rarely see any in the remote places they call home.

Earth Mephits are Level 3 Brutes, with HP 54, AC 15, Fort 16, Ref 14, and Will 15. They have the ability to Earth Walk. Their regeneration can be suppressed with Psychic damage or by forcing them to start their turn in the air. They have three standard action attacks:
* Slam (At-Will): Melee 1 (2 when Large), +8 vs. AC, 2d8+4 damage, 2d10+9 damage while Large.
* Earth Blast (Recharge when First Bloodied): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +8 vs. AC, 2d10+3 damage and target falls prone.
* Expand (Recharge 5): The Earth Mephit becomes Large until the end of its next turn, occupying 4 squares instead of 1. Any creatures in its new space are pushed into a space adjacent to the mephit.

Fire Mephit:
Although fire mephits rarely live anywhere outside the Elemental Chaos, they can be found where conflagrations burn out of control—areas with forest fires, volcanic activity, or other sources of frequent natural flames. They have dull red skin streaked with black, and a halo of fire surrounds their thin and translucent wings. They can be malicious when interacting with mortals. Indeed, fire mephits consider themselves superior to all non-fire creatures and delight in tormenting them.

Fire Mephits are Level 3 Skirmishers, with HP 46, AC 17, Fort 14, Ref 16, and Will 15. They are Immune to Fire, and their regeneration can be suppressed by Cold and Psychic damage. They have the following powers:
* Claws (Standard, At-Will): 1d+3 damage and ongoing 5 Fire damage (save ends). If the target is already taking ongoing fire damage, it increases by 5, up to a maximum of 10.
* Flame Blast (Standard, Recharge 5): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +6 vs. Reflex, 2d8+3 Fire damage.
* Dancing Flames (Move, At-Will): The mephit shifts up to half its speed.

Ice Mephit:
Ice mephits are as cruel as they are cold, preferring to stay at a distance and jeer at other creatures as they struggle in the freezing places the mephits call home. They are the meanest of all the mephits, taking great pleasure in watching the suffering of others. The body of these creatures can easily be mistaken for ice, since they are blue-white and freezing cold to the touch. Their small wings are so thin that they are almost transparent.

Ice Mephits are Level 4 Artillery, with HP 44, AC 18, Fort 15, Ref 17, and Will 16. They have the Ice Walk ability and are Immune to Cold. Their regeneration can be suppressed by Fire and Psychic damage. They have three standard action attacks:
* Claws (At-Will): Melee 1, +9 vs. AC, 1d6+6 damage plus 1d6 Cold damage and the target cannot take actions until the start of its next turn.
* Frost Dagger (At-Will): Ranged 10 (1 or 2 creatures), +9 vs. Reflex, 1d6+6 Cold damage.
* Freezing Blast (Recharge 5): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +7 vs. Reflex, 1d8+4 Cold damage and ongoing 5 Cold damage on a hit, half damage on a miss, and the blast creates a zone of icy ground that is difficult terrain for creatures without ice walk, which lasts until the end of the mephit's next turn.

Magma Mephit:
Magma or lava mephits originated from the seas of boiling lava and molten rock found throughout the Elemental Chaos. Legends claim that the Sea of Fire potentially contains tens of thousands of these creatures beneath its surface, moving through the magma as if it were water. In the material world, they are frequently found in areas of high volcanic activity, such as around active volcanoes. Their bodies are made of glowing red magma and molten rock, and they radiate intense heat noticeable from several feet away. Magma mephits are the least intelligent of all the mephits. They are dumb, lumbering brutes that seldom speak and that enjoy bashing things with their stony hands. When given a task by their masters, the orders are usually very simplistic and don’t involve effort beyond standing in one spot and attacking anything that approaches. Asking a magma mephit to do anything beyond that would be futile and the order most likely ignored.

Magma Mephits are Level 4 Lurkers, with HP 48, AC 18, Fort 17, Ref 15, and Will 16. They are Immune to Fire and Poison, and their regeneration can be suppressed with Cold and Psychic damage. They have three standard action attacks.
* Slam (At-Will): Melee 1, +9 vs. AC, 1d10+6 damage, plus 1d10 Fire damage.
* Molten Blast (Recharge when the mephit uses Magma Form): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +7 vs. Reflex, 2d6+6 Fire damage and ongoing 5 Fire damage (save ends).
* Magma Form (At-Will): The mephit takes the shape of a Large pool of magma, occupying 4 squares instead of 1, until the mephit ends the effect as a minor action. While the mephit is in this form, the mephit cannot attack. If squeezing in this form, the mephit moves at full speed rather than half speed, and the mephit does not grant combat advantage for squeezing. While the mephit is in this form, it can enter occupied spaces and creatures can enter its space. A creature that starts its turn in the mephit’s space takes 2d6 fire and poison damage.

Mist Mephit:
Mist mephits are an offshoot of steam mephits that prefer cooler climates in the material world, such as swamps and marshes that generate thick fog. They have gray-white bodies that constantly secrete mist from their skin, covering the mephits in a thin layer from head to toe. Their bodies sometimes look translucent, and they have the ability to become insubstantial and blend in to the haze that surrounds them. Mist mephits are quite shy, preferring to stay at a distance and remain hidden in the darkness.

Mist Mephits are Level 3 Skirmishers, with HP 45, AC 17, Fort 15, Ref 16, and Will 15. They can Hover, are Immune to Poison, and their regeneration can be suppressed by Fire and Psychic damage. They have three standard action attacks:
* Claws (At-Will): Melee 1, +8 vs. AC, 2d6+4 damage.
* Choking Mist (Recharge 5): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +6 vs. Reflex, 2d6+4 Poison damage, half damage on a hit, the blast becomes a lightly obscured zone in which the mist mephit gains a +2 bonus to all defenses until the end of its next turn.
* Mist Form (Encounter): The mephit becomes insubstantial until the end of its next turn. If squeezing in this form, the mephit moves at full speed rather than half speed, and it doesn’t grant combat advantage for squeezing. By using a Standard action to Sustain, the effect persists until the end of the mephit’s next turn.

Steam Mephit:
Steam mephits inhabit areas of intense heat that also generate a high level of steam and geothermal activity, such as a lava flow pouring into the ocean or among naturally occurring steam geysers and hot springs. They are gray in color and constantly drip scalding hot water from every part of their bodies. Steam mephits are bossy, overconfident, and impetuous. They enjoy combat against creatures that they feel are inferior, even if that assessment is in error. They hide among nearby clouds while waiting for the right time to attack. Due to their over-sized egos and their need to show they are superior to all other mephits, they rush in to battle at the first opportunity they have.

Steam Mephits are Level 4 Lurkers, with HP 43, AC 18, Fort 15, Ref 17, and Will 16. They can Hover, are Immune to Fire, and their regeneration can be suppressed by Cold and Psychic damage. They have four attacks.
* Claw (Standard, At-Will): Melee 1, +9 vs. AC, 2d6+4 damage, plus 1d8 damage if the target cannot see the mephit.
* Boiling Jet (Standard, At-Will): Ranged 5 (1 creature), +7 vs. Reflex, 1d6+5 damage and ongoing 5 Fire damage (save ends).
* Boiling Rain (Standard, Recharge 5): Area burst 1 within 10 (Creatures), +7 vs. Reflex, 1d8+4 Fire damage and ongoing 5 Fire damage (save ends), half damage on a miss.
* Dissipate (Minor, Recharges when the mephit misses with a melee attack): The steam mephit becomes invisible until the end of the next turn or until it hits or misses with an attack.

Water Mephit:
Water mephits live anywhere there is abundant water—from a lake or river to the ocean depths—though they prefer to inhabit waters that are part of thriving ecosystems. They are covered with scales and have large bulbous eyes and fin-like wings. Most creatures find water mephits to be annoyingly cheerful. These mephits enjoy playing with other living creatures—splashing them, using water blast to create unexpected currents, and generally making well-meaning nuisances of themselves.

Water Mephits are Level 3 Controllers, with HP 46, AC 17, Fort 16, Ref 14, and Will 15. They have a Swim speed of 6, Immunity to Acid, and their regeneration can be suppressed by Cold and Fire damage. They have three attacks.
* Claws (Standard, At-Will): Melee 1, +8 vs. AC, 2d6+4 damage.
* Acid Breath (Standard, Recharge 5): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +6 vs. Reflex, 1d6+3 Acid damage, half damage on a mist, and the blast creates a zone that lasts until the end of the encounter or until the mephit uses this power again. The zone is lightly obscured, and a creature that ends its turn in the zone takes 5 acid damage.
* Water Blast (Minor, At-Will): Close Blast 3 (Creatures), +6 vs. Fortitude, the mephit Slides the target up to 2 squares on a hit and can Push them 1 square on a miss.


Closing Thoughts:
This article is... solid, but not really flashy. It does what it sets out to do, which is to provide a glossy new update of an old-school monster, and it does it quite adequately. I liked it, but I wouldn't say that it really fired me up with excitement. I'm happy to have it, but I wouldn't put it in my top 5 favorite articles in this Let's Read.

Next time, we will return to an article series we haven't seen for a while, with the Ecology of the Gargoyle!
 

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Even at level 3-4, I thought mephits were too high level as monsters. I mean, how discouraging if your character is punked by mephits before level 5! Particularly when low-level white dragons are in that range. Kobolds seem much more level-appropriate monsters.

Where 4e really made good use of mephits was when they showed up as Paragon level familiars. Allowed for them to fit into some of the roles they were supposed to have in Planescape, such as spies, messengers, etc.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
I have always loved mephits. They're so great at being petty assholes with a twist; the original Fiend Folio art being strongly based on Brian Froud gave them that distinct fey-but-not-quite look that stuck well. I don't mind them being higher than 1st level, personally; they feel like a good rung on the ladder, where you move from fighting mostly mundane foes or mindless undead to intelligent, clearly supernatural creatures like elementals. And they're a good pick for that low-level enemy wizard or sorcerer whose "familiar" is actually good in a fight.

It's true about the Planescape "filling a grid" thing, that's for sure. They had to sift around for ways to distinguish all the new types, which is why 2e dust mephits are parodies of World of Darkness fans. '90s topical!
 

Bira

Registered User
Validated User
I think level 3 works well for mephits. They’re more powerful than many early natural enemies such as goblins, kobolds, and even some humans. This is good for showing that elementals are serious business! And they’re still individually less powerful than an equivalent level dragon, since those are always solos.
 
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