Playing, at a D&D table near you!
- "statue surprises you and goes grrr!" i thought to begin with a revisit to the old basic gargoyle encounter and see how it changed... now imagine our group of adventurers doing what they do best- going through an old ruined temple, and being the good guys they are, they do not forget to grab anything with a twinkle in it. any opposition? why, they disposed of it as soon as they saw it! coming to the main hall, they prepared, ready for the big fight, they then entered the hall, meeting the horrible... emptiness?
what the hell? moving curiously forward, they immediately begin trying to find the hidden danger. the wizard and cleric casts a few divination spells, while the rogue searches ahead. "oy, nothing here but some strange writing!". the cleric and wizard come close, trying to check the writing, maybe for a clue, while the rogue checks for traps around the big statue in the middle. "stop!" cries the fighter "i bet it will come alive! a freaking big statue of it's god or something! you 3 take cover while i hack it down, prepare to help!"
the others take position away from the intimidating sculpture, as the fighter start trashing it. "the writings don't make sense, just a bunch of gibberish like we found before" says the wizard, as suddenly the cleric goes pale. "what's the matter he asks the cleric, who just noticed their "cover" were 2 gargoyles, who suddenly launch at them. as they start to fight, the fighter turns, and rush at them, when a huge chunk of stone falls on him from the top of the statue. and that chunk of stone has teeth...
ok, enough cinema- a few things that can be important to these situations- first of course, is the "fade out of memory", that gives the gargoyles a real element of surprise. as a DM remember the gargoyles must be still for this to work, so position them in advance, and don't move them to suit your needs. gargoyles are patient, and can wait till circumstances fit their needs, but they are not all seeing and all planning. if the gargoyles had time to watch the party, they will be able to prepare a good enough ambush somewhere. gargoyles prefer one definitive ambush, over a few sporadic ones.
second- various states. the half awakened and fully awakened states give you two kinds of challenges at once- one fast, with DR/magic, while the other slower, but with hardness and better protection. the gargoyles can switch between the states, and use the best one. don't forget that in the semi awakened state the gargoyle weigh as much as stone, and can use it to it's advantage (such as falling on the fighter). the fortification makes them problematic for the rogue. the fact that it's not heavy fortification makes the sneak attacks still worthwhile..
as the battle continued, the fighter drew the gargoyles attention, but he was being bled out slowly. the cleric cleared a path to him "here, let me heal you". but as soon as the cleric mumbled the words, one of the other gargoyles, the one the fighter nearly beat, suddenly glowed, the cracks mending..
third- the gargoyles ability to draw upon positive energy makes every long battle more hazardous. and this is but healing, gargoyles are especially hazardous with other creatures, especially the undead.
one of the gargoyles reached the wizard, no matter what it threw at him. ait grabbed him, grappled for a few seconds, and turned to stone. the wizards cursed, not being able to get it's hands loose.
fourth- the "turn to stone" ability can be tough with grappling, but twice as dangerous when flying, climbing, swimming and more.
"lets get out of here! we killed over half, we'll get to town and regroup, next time it will be easier!"
fifth- the rebuilding means that though that may be true, if they wait too long then it is not... the gargoyles could be back to full strength (or at least more than the group expects) also, they might change their guardian powers to fit the situation.
- "him? i don't know, it just joined us one day. doesn't speak much, but he's a hell of a night watch!" at some point of the party's adventures, it is watched by a roaming gargoyle the party shows character similar to the structure he left, and so it decides to join them for awhile. the idea here is to join the party with a unique cohort, which may not be entirely easy to deal with. first of all, at times it disappears, and you don't find it until you sit on it! it doesn't talk, just writes all that stuff or does the hand signals, and the cleric is getting a bit testy with it. oh, and not to forget- why is he with us anyway? i never got a clear answer.
a gargoyle, though not fitting to be a PC due to mentality and more, would make a very interesting (and also effective) cohort. it provides the party with roleplay opportunities, valuable abilities (consturct, positive link against enemy clerics, and more), and plot hooks (figuring out where it came, deciphering warnings and omens in it's script, guardian abilities finding something, and of course finding it a permanent structure).
- "guys, someone broke in! lets find Gregor!" (sorry, couldn't think of a better name). in continuation to the previous encounter, if the party ever settles into a major base of operations (small manor, fortress, keep, whether "liberated" by the party or gained in less violent ways), why not add a gargoyle or two to the mix? in could either be the former cohort, or a new gargoyle who just got in, or a previous "occupant" that just hadn't revealed itself to the former residents... again, this is mainly for roleplaying applications, but the gargoyles, as a skilled guardian, can also provide plot hooks if the players abode is ever broken into. like a stealthy security camera, Gregor probably seen it all...
- safer than a Khundarak safe: (that was an Eberron reference). at some adventure or campaign, some place needs to be guarded really well. instead of numerous spells and traps that could be thwarted by the right magic or rogue skill, the protector seeks the help of gargoyles (he either contacts them through some other gargoyle, or they might have been part of the place anyway. anywhere with gargoyle script is a good place to start).
the idea here is to incorporate gargoyles as part of a place's security measures. in this role the gargoyles will mostly be detectors and blockers, using their guardian powers rather than their combat abilities. the gargoyles can also be re setters of traps, activators of mechanisms and more. spread them out, and wisely. if the gargoyles know of the party, they will prepare.
-cheap oracle, who writes in gibberish: the Gargoyle script can be used as part of a murder mystery, prophetic event, or whatever. if you enable your players access to some gargoyles (like their friend Gregor), you in fact give them access to an elaborate, cryptic form of Legend Lore. this may especially appeal to problem solvers/ decoders. as always with puzzles- don't make it the only way to solve the problem, but have it be meaningful enough.
-sanctuary: a ruin that harbors enough gargoyles may well function as a sanctuary, or a safe neutral zone: the few encounters with gargoyles ensure the place is far less barren then it seems (and you can never trust what you see with gargoyles) and the various power of the gargoyles make it very hard to snake in undetected, or to scry/ teleport in with surprise. (in fact, it just might be that this sort of neutrality, safety, is the idea behind the place, or the ruin/ structure, making the gargoyles especially devout to it.
the party, perhaps accompanying or accompanied by allies arrive here to meet with their enemies, or to negotiate with potential allies (as long as things feel tense). the presence of the gargoyles serves to restrain violence, and so many highly interesting and tense roleplaying situations can occur here.
alternatively, you could also have one of the side make some transgression against the code of the place (the transgression can be hidden or not, intentional or not, it may matter... or not). suddenly, the entire silent places burst with the awakening of hundreds of gargoyles! the party may need to make a breakthrough, they might need to save someone caught in another part of the place, or it might even need to fight shoulder to shoulder with their enemy to get out of here!. this is especially fit for levels when small groups no longer matter, but big groups of gargoyles do.
i suggest to use a varied mix of gargoyles here, unless you already have other species in allegiance with the gargoyles, providing them assistance.
(for some reason imagine an old desert ruin, home to a clan of Janni and the gargoyles, where two army leaders, with large retinues come to meet).
-Gargoyles falling from the sky! gargoyles are also effective as flying troops in wars. if a temple succeeds in convincing some to join the cause, then it has gotten some valuable allies. gargoyles usually hamper far stronger flying troops by the simple tactic of grappling with them and then turning to stone.the added weight either complicates flight for the flier, or just brings it down! gargoyles usually crush from the fall, but the priests and cleric later collect the pieces and lay them at a small stone alter dragged by a cart especially fot his purpose.
another tactic, used mainly against siege engines and for terror effect, as to have the gargoyles fly above the designated target, and then plummet to it turning to stone. they usually wreck havoc, but gargoyles don't use this a lot, since it may means their remains may be behind enemy lines.
gargoyles are intelligent troops and will use whatever tactic is efficient and needed. their common protections make them amazingly good against normal troops, and they are soemtimes used so...
- distant relatives: i haven't mentioned the other variant of gargoyles, since they can still fit most scenes, with slight variations. a lion gargoyle can be a mount cohort, draconic gargoyles are even more impressive at downing fliers than the humanoids are, and so on. the important thing about the variants, is to both show their difference, and that they are still, basically, gargoyles, not some other kind of construct... make sure the basic features of behavior stay the same, and then vary and alter as you like!
-ancient gargoyles: these are not so much a creature than it is a location. i would recommend not to put more than one of these in a campaign, and even then with a good reason. the main contributions of them to the gaming experience are first- the matter of size, feeling very small against this massive creature. second- "living scenery"- the gargoyle is alive, and it's "alter stone" works in a larger scale. the place should feel vibrant, with a purpose, with a pulse (as far as this term can be used). third- usually the moving living fortress is part of something epic, and this serves to make it unique.
Bonus section! interactions with other monsters of the Compendium!
-Stirges: the stirges can't really feed upon the gargoyles- too hard a skin (when in stone or half awakened state), and too much of a DR on awakened state. besides, what would they drink- mortar? however, these two creatures can coexist in quite a beneficial manner.
stirges usually supplement the guardianship of Ruin gargoyles, and Feral ones: when the gargoyles swoop to attack, so do the stirges from their hiding places! as the intruders (read: adventuring party) tries to deal with the stone guardians, the blood sucking opportunists swoop for a quick meal. the situation might get more severe if a restoration spell is needed, since the gargoyle's positive energy link greatly complicate the succesfull casting of such spell in mid combat.
gargoyles usually don't mind the stirges presence, since they usually pose no threat or opposition for the structures they guard. Feral gargoyles even help them, altering stone cleft a bit to create better nests and so on... but all in all, the gargoyles seem fairly oblivious to these creatures, benefiting from their presence when in battle, but not caring much otherwise.
there is a peculiar exception though- when the gargoyles is allied with a temple dedicated to gods who demand much blood letting, sacrifices and such, the gargoyles of the place may actually cultivate stirges, building complicated nests and small tunnels through the building. no one knows exactly why this is so, but some believe this stems from the gargoyles own interpretation of the building's purpose and character...
-BloodLust Swarms: an entirely different matter are these devastating swarms. here, the main interaction is with City gargoyles, but this time as opposers. small farming communities have usually relied upon the local temples and churches to protect them from these horrors. when BloodLust swarms appear, the inhabitants of the area run to the the temple, and baricade themselves in. now, is the time of the temple's defenders- the gargoyles, to take care of the swarm. the gargoyles are uniquely suited for this, unaffected of the swarm abilities other than the damage. (and even for that, they rely on their Rebuilding for afterwards. many commoners tell of their frightful night in the church's hall, hearing the maddened flattering and humming of wings outside, and the inhuman shrieks of the battling statues (who some people suspected, but never actually knew, were there).
at some incidents in history however, cultists of dark or destructive gods, intentionally sabotaged or destroyed the gargoyles beforehand. if done secretly, many temples didn't learn about it till it was far too late...
- stone giants: workers of natural stone on one side, and worked stone on the other, gargoyles and stone giants never really got along together... they also rarely met due to the vastly different habitats... however, ruin, roaming and feral gargoyles have crossed paths with stone giant communities or migration parties on occasion. the gargoyles prefer to use their Fade out powers, knowing that the giants are far more superior to them strength wise, but there had been some serious clashes at times.
gargoyles usually display some great emotion towards Watchers- hate, caring, and more. almost if they think of it as some other gargoyle. however, their attempts to alter it, adding gargoyle runes, changing the face and more are definitely not appreciated by the stone giants, who feverishly hunt down gargoyles who stumble into their territory, perhaps for this exact reason. some scholars theorize there might be a connection between the crafting of the gargoyles, and the creating of Watchers, even their purpose is similar.
-In Thunder's Step groups: the ThunderClaps stone giants are more sociable than their kin, even to gargoyles, but to an extent. usually when such a group travels through a place known for it's ruins, or visits a local inhabited by gargoyles, they offer a deal- news, or other goods for the protection the gargoyle might offer. the gargoyles themselves seem to recognize the group as some sort of a religious pilgrimage, and are more willing to converse with it/ let it pass.
when dealing with other non giant races, ThunderClaps (in their role as emmiseries) sometime choose a meeting place heavily populated by gargoyles (as i described above, in the "Sanctuary" encounter), to reduce possible hostilities.
one unconfirmed rumor tells that gargoyles take a great pleasure from the storms created by the Held Storm, and that this must be part of the payment the gargoyles receive for whatever deals they broker with the ThunderClaps. this is particularly odd considering that they almost exclusively create these storms in places of religious importance for common stone giants... where no gargoyle would venture..
-Yeth Hounds: (i'm taking a bit of creative liberty Prometheus): similar to the stirges, there is no really special connection between the species, but there are at times interesting interactions. Feral gargoyles sometime hunt with Yeth Hounds, where they drive creatures to it, and then it surprises them. this is especially true is swamps and similar areas, where the Yeth hound drives the victims to the water's edge, and then the gargoyle leaps, grabs it, and then sink, turning to stone. Yeth hounds seem to revel in the horror of the drowning victim.
some of the Feral's use their alter stone powers to help modify the Yeth Hounds lair, make it a maze of curves, pitfalls and more. Spider/ Marilian gargoyles seem to be attracted to the yeth hounds more than others.
at times of war, when yeth hounds and gargoyles may be on opposite sides (Gargoyles usually on a mission for a temple, yeth hounds trained or subdued somehow by someone). the Yeth hounds may work as terror groups, while the gargoyles main just is to knock them down of the sky (mostly by their usual method of "hug, pertrify self, crash to ground". Draconic and serpentine gargoyles however use more conventional methods.)
another odd instance, similar to the stirges again, is when a gargoyle inhabit a temple or a place dedicated to fear. if a yeth hound arrives, the gargoyles may take effort to make it's stay more comfy, more pleasurable as well..
- Barghest: Barghest are not the only devine protectors of the goblinoid races. goblins of the past created gargoyles to, and some of their temples sport them. (in Eberron it is estimated the Dhakann empire was responsible for many of the gargoyles present in Khorvaire today). but there is no special animosity amongst them. the Barghest cannot identify them by it's life sense, and cannot feed upon them. this in some ways, ease the relations between the species.
the Barghest's need for secrecy, inquisitive mind, protective powers, and well known reputation for honoring deals (through debt stones), make it an ideal partner. many gargoyles seek ruin gargoyles, or offer deals for roaming gargoyles, for mutual protection. the gargoyle may also make a deal with some gargoyles not in it's own where about, to function as observers, and security for a deal making meeting... (again, as in "sanctuary"). both creatures are often reliable, and through the centuries many gargoyles found some comfort in the presence of the elusive stone sentinels..
Barghest however use the gargoyles as another resource, a resource of information- a Barghest is usually familiar with many languages, and at least some knowledge skills. a Barghest may spend days going over some Gargoyle script, deciphering it. some time it is for the Barghest own use, but sometime the information is a bargaining card for more deals. indeed, at some places (usually rural ones, and with heavy goblinoid populations), the Barghest establishes itself as a sort of an oracle...
Barghests, through their long experience with gargoyles, have learned to deal with their odd personalities, weird mindset, and off-key interpretations. Barghests, out of the various species who tried to communicate with gargoyles, and make them do as they are told, are definitely one of the most successful, subtly manipulative...
all of the above however refer to natural Barghests, not Extraplanar ones, who have no special experience with the gargoyles. these Barghests usually relentless uncontrolled behavior and hunger brings them to a confrontation with the Barghests soon enough.
- Wights: (batsofchaos, i'm taking some liberties here as well, feel free to comment) the wights being intelligent undead, the gargoyles usually don't mind them that much (Fade out still affects them, and the energy drain can't hurt the gargoyles), unless they come into conflict with the gargoyles (or the buildings) cause.
there have been known to be cases in the past, where wight population grew alarmingly, that many temples requested their gargoyles to wage war against them, and destroy them. and indeed, for some odd reason (perhaps the work of the secret society mentioned in the thread) gargoyles then sought and hunted wights, by great amounts.
but as said before- gargoyle align themselves to numerous goals and purposes. gargoyles have been seen fighting with wight on occasion, though not in an orderly manner, usually in ruins and such. the combination tend to be devastating. (cleric can't rebuke without the gargoyle interfering, and if a gargoyle grapples and turn to stone, the wight had as easy target).
on a few occasions though, wights and gargoyles were joined in purpose. this was usually under the leadership of a death/ necromancy influenced religion (in Eberron, the most notable is Blood of Vol), or guarding a tomb and such. the various forms of both "species", their "immortality", relentlessness, various and more make any structured coalition between them a thing to be feared (a wight dragon ridden by a humanoid gargoyle, or vice versa. a cavalry of lion gargoyles and wight riders of various species, or vice versa, and more). the gargoyles usually takes the role of defender and neutralizer, while the wight is the offensive, the killer...
in conclusion: i do think this is one of my best work, and amongst the most versatile. gargoyles could fit in so many situations and places... hope you enjoyed, and as always- comments are welcomed.