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

Gilphon

Registered User
Validated User
I mean, no prehistoric creature is ever going to be dungeon-only critter- all of them are creatures that had an ecological niche in the real world once upon a time. But maybe, instead of just giving us huge mammals, talk about a 'forest' that has colossal mushrooms instead of trees. Populate the seas with bizarre Cambrian monsters like Anomalocaris, Opabinia and Hallucigenia. Populate the land with ridiculous Triassic reptiles like Tanystropheus and Sharovipteryx. There's the potential for really weird and interesting creatures, even without any departures from the real life critters.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
I mean, no prehistoric creature is ever going to be dungeon-only critter- all of them are creatures that had an ecological niche in the real world once upon a time. But maybe, instead of just giving us huge mammals, talk about a 'forest' that has colossal mushrooms instead of trees. Populate the seas with bizarre Cambrian monsters like Anomalocaris, Opabinia and Hallucigenia. Populate the land with ridiculous Triassic reptiles like Tanystropheus and Sharovipteryx. There's the potential for really weird and interesting creatures, even without any departures from the real life critters.
Eberron has a giant Opabinia, iirc.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
I mean, no prehistoric creature is ever going to be dungeon-only critter
Terrestrial worms, parasitic fungus of roots, and cave dwelling arthropods, fish and amphibians. The ancestors of purple worms, myconids, cave crickets, cave fishers, etc.
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
Now that's more like it! Having been inducted into the fantasy world in no small part by Conan novels, even if I did prefer the more magical version of Hyperboria seen in the 90s Conan cartoon, I have a soft spot for using prehistoric beasts as fantastic fauna.

Now, let's begin taking our final steps into the pages of Dragon with the Ecology of the Neogi (Dragon #427)...


Opening Thoughts:
Ah, the Neogi. Popularized in (if not created for) the Spelljammer setting, neogi were an attempt to create a designated villain race in a setting where even beholders and illithids were not always evil. Paired with the infamous umber hulks, these slave-taking eel-spiders never quite gained the popularity of the aboleth, beholder and illithid, but are still fairly well embedded in the culture of D&D to those who have more than a cursory knowledge.

Neogi debuted in 4e in the Monster Manual 2, with three statblocks provided; the Slaver, the Spawn Swarm, and the Great Old Master (which was referred to as the Great Old One in earlier editions, I think).


Neogi of the World Axis:
The first half of the article's first page, which opens with flavor text from "Niko the Grey", a mercenary who escaped thralldom at the claws of the neogi and who describes them as "worse than drow" with avarice that "(makes) even dragons look content", is dedicated to explaining who the neogi are in 4e's brave new cosmology.

Frankly? Nothing majorly has changed. Neogi are aberrations who are found both in the Underdark and in other planes of reality. They are notorious slavers, consumed to the last by incredible megalomania, and as their their twisted caravan-like colonies roam far and wide, they trade in all manner of illicit and foul wares, from slaves to drugs to black magic. However, their bargaining is merely a tool to them, and ultimately they yearn to enslave or devour the very clients that they profit from. They regularly attack defenseless settlements, seeking to carry off as many victims as possible to become their slaves.

A sidebar on the third page notes that negoi caravans in the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos operate out of spider-shaped planar vessels, making a living as pirates and smugglers as well as slavers and merchants. They are commonly called "the Tso" on those planes. I don't know where the name comes from, but the spider-ships are a blatant Spelljammer reference.


The Mind of a Monster:
In addition to examining Neogi psychology over a number of specific topics, this portion of the article provides a specific set of Alternative Mechanics linked to each sub-topic. This is an element that will remain consistent throughout the center of this article, allowing DMs to better customize neogi - and their thralls - for use in their games.

Neogi psychology can be summed up in a single word: avarice. Neogi WANT everything and anything. Their entire culture is built around this insatiable need to possess and consume.

Despite their hideous miens, neogi have a devious skill of wordplay, which has been honed over unknown millennia of trading across the planes. Despite their internal corruption, they excel at portraying a veneer of fairness and reason; to the unwitting customer, they seem amiable and patient. Naturally, they are always several steps ahead of their clients, making it a point to know everything about them to better exploit, cheat, betray or enslave them if they are unwary.

Though capable of telepathy, they prefer to speak aloud, and make it a habit to always address a customer in their native tongue in a calm, sibilant voice; the better to overcome their unsettling appearance. Of course, neogi will say literally anything in order to get their own way.

Only a neogi's thralls or victims are likely to experience a neogi's telepathy, which they wield with surgical precision and surprising subtlety.

Neogi feel their emotions with great intensity, and to the last are dominated by two specific emotions: obsession and hatred. However, their passion is matched by their patience, and they are seldom driven to be hasty or impulsive.

Their intelligence also cannot be questioned, and the jealous competition of their broods is accepted in no small part because it helps hone their sharp minds. It makes them particularly adept at controlling and exploiting their slaves, or using their telepathy to enthrall others.

Whilst it may seem odd for such avaricious creatures to be sociable, in fact, it's their avarice that drives neogi to band together, forming broods of 5 to 20 neogi, plus an enormous menagerie of slaves. By pooling their forces, neogi become able to launch more successful raids and intimidate or overcome competition that would otherwise be too strong. Of course, cooperation ends when it's time to divide the loot; violence frequently results.

A neogi brood's members operate individually, but the brood as a whole votes on matters that concern them all. The brood is, as you'd expect, a plutocracy; the more stuff a neogi owns, the higher its voting power.

Neogi keep an enormous variety of slaves, but umber hulks are their most prized (and iconic) followers, with the neogi raising them from birth to serve as laborers and protectors.


Aberrant Physiology:
Neogi are small, frail-looking creatures; adorned with thorny bristles that can be made to flatten, rise or ripple in complex patterns, their strange combination of fleshy-limbed spider body with eel-like head is gross-looking, but hardly fear-inducing. In fact, neogi are far stronger than they look, and easily as strong as humanoids. They're just lazy.

This hideous appearance is made all the more so because neogi are extremely mutable. The basic appearance is set in stone, but the finer details vary wildly. For example, most have primitive gripping appendages with only two or three digits, but rare neogi possess delicate hands that are almost identical to a human child's.

The most infamous aspect of neogi biology is their reproduction. As a neogi ages, its sanity inevitably frays; it becomes crueler, and greedier, and will ultimately lose control over itself - and its thralls. Because of this, when a brood has a member suspected of nearing the critical threshold of age, the younger neogi turn on their fellow, stinging it in a frenzy to flood its veins with some aberrant ichor that catalyzes the transformation. The neogi bloats horribly into a monster nearly four times its original size, its abdomen swelling enormously into an enormous egg-sac writhing with developing larval neogi. This hideous change is agonizingly painful, driving the Great Old Master completely into insanity, and ultimately fatal; although the transformed neogi becomes a physical powerhouse, they die within a few weeks as their brood devours them from the inside out, ultimately causing it to rupture in a great squirming mass of gore, segmented legs, and hungry mouths. This process is of particular reverence to the neogi, who view it as a sacred act of power and revenge.


Thralls:
Slaves are everything in neogi... "society". Thralls provide status within the brood, spending power at market, tools for grueling tasks, weapons to dispatch foes, and food.

Neogi aren't picky about their thralls. Umber hulks, as mentioned above, are prized for their loyalty (in so far as neogi recognize the emotion), and remain a central part of all neogi broods. Humans are a staple, since they are hardy, prevalent, and easily corrupted. The bulk of "common" neogi slaves are sapient and semi-sapient creatures of the Underdark; duergar, goblins, grimlocks, hook horrors, kuo-toas, troglodytes and trolls. The most prized are beings particularly known for their power and cunning minds; drow, devils, and elementals.

Slave raids are meticulously planned, often using bribed defenders or secret paths beneath a targeted community for added tactical advantage. Bloodshed is kept to a minimum, and no time is wasted in polluting a captive's mind, with the neogi painstakingly assessing their victim's psyche and tailoring their methods to best suit breaking each thrall, be it through agonizing pain or illicit pleasure in reward for obedience.

The lifespan and style of slaves generally depend on how useful or valuable they are perceived to be. Neogi never trust a slave, no matter how many times it has demonstrated its loyalty, but slaves with profitable abilities tend to be treated less harshly.

The one race neogi will not enslave is the illithids. Should they capture a mind flayer alive, the neogi will torment it with a humiliating exhibition of subservience before dismembering and devouring it.


Final Leavings:
The last page reveals the origins of the neogi, spawned by experiments conducted by the ancestors of the illithids on a fellow creature of the Far Realm. This is why the neogi hate the illithids so much; they hope to conquer the entire multiverse, enslaving all that lives to form a great army with which to invade the Far Realm and destroy the mind flayers.

It then concludes with four statblocks; MM3 math-updated versions of the Great Old Master, the Slaver and the Spawn Swarm, plus a new statblock in the Neogi Taskmaster.


Closing Thoughts:
All in all? I'd rate this as an extremely solid article. It's not technically that new in terms of fluff, but it's quite evocative, and for the probably significant amount of new players who'd never heard of neogi before? It was definitely a welcome expansion on their sparse MM2 lore. Add in the bevvy of customization powers and traits here, and if you want creepy slave-taking monsters, well, why not mix things up and use the Neogi?

Our last Dragon article will be next, with the Ecology of the Kruthic. We have formally hit the midway point in this project, and I do hope you folks are enjoying it.
 

s/LaSH

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RPGnet Member
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The first time I heard about the Far Realm, it sounded like a place of untold horror, where the laws of physics and causality itself would twist just to spite you.

The more we learn about it, however, the more I start to think that the Far Realm is not so bad. It's just another place, with its own people who have their own hopes and dreams.

Mind, those hopes and dreams are basically to enslave me, warp my body and mind, devour me painfully from the inside out, and then crawl inside the husk and puppet it to ensnare the people I care about the most. So y'know. Not so bad.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
A sidebar on the third page notes that negoi caravans in the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos operate out of spider-shaped planar vessels, making a living as pirates and smugglers as well as slavers and merchants. They are commonly called "the Tso" on those planes. I don't know where the name comes from, but the spider-ships are a blatant Spelljammer reference.
I don't have access to the books at the moment, but IIRC the tso were a negogi variant published in one of the Planescape supplements.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Tso are from the second Planescape MC.

Great Old Masters are from Spelljammer and the 3e MM II got them right- they do become mindless after getting poisoned. Lords of Madness changed that so they still have a spark of their former mind.

And the only thing that I remember from the Ecology is the idea of ownership chains. All neogi are slave and master to other neogi, except for the top and bottom of the chains of course.
 

s/LaSH

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Tso are from the second Planescape MC.

Great Old Masters are from Spelljammer and the 3e MM II got them right- they do become mindless after getting poisoned. Lords of Madness changed that so they still have a spark of their former mind.

And the only thing that I remember from the Ecology is the idea of ownership chains. All neogi are slave and master to other neogi, except for the top and bottom of the chains of course.
I think you'd see something genuinely alien if you removed the top of that chain. Make the ownership chain something every neogi knows it must belong to. If you have no master, you are temporarily embarrassed, and need to figure out an appropriate way to get yourself inherited or sold on. Ideally, you'll find a neogi with nothing to do with your local ownership cluster, and thus bind two chains together.

This scheme allows and encourages cycles in the chain. The most degenerate form is two neogi, one of whom owns the other; they will attempt to sell themselves to their own slave, forming a cycle with no ultimate master. Real organisations tend to look more like trees with the occasional loop, but the ultimate goal as described by some neogi philosophers is to form the entire species into a single great loop of ownership.

After all, the neogi know what happens to the greatest masters. You sting them a lot and then they explode. And that's natural, but can it be natural tomorrow instead of today?
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
Going back to Spelljammer, you will find something interesting: neogi have the natural ability to charm umber hulks, and only umber hulks.

Headcanon: neogi and hulks evolved on the same world as the only native sapients; neogi are so used to the idea that they are the natural masters of other people that the wider universe just does not make sense to them, and they use cruder methods to try to enslave everyone they encounter in order to set the world to right.
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
Uh, question; guys, did I ever cover the Ecology of the Modron from Dragon #414? Because I think that I might have missed that one somewhere along the line...
 
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