The Troglodyte: more than just a case of bad odor. a glimpse through a twisted and broken mirror
i noticed these lizardine folks due to a comment by Trog, (earlier on this thread. i hope you like what it turned out to be!). as i read through the monster entry, at first i didn't find much to work with. but upon googling the troglodyte and reading a bit, a few ideas and adaptations came to mind. this entry barely has "game mechanics", focusing more on cultural aspects. also, it is shorter than previous ones...
Bad street Rep: the Troglodyte, like many monsters out there, is only only for their signature ability- stench. other than that they seem quite boring, easily replaceable with any other of the myriad of humanoids out there. they do have some odd remarks about hoarding iron, and the strange choice of "cleric" as their favored class. these don't seem to make sense though.
also- if you need lizardian creatures, why now go with lizardmen or kobolds?
i care for it because: i didn't at first. it really didn't appeal to me. but then i began reading about troglodytes. the term basically refers to something of the sort of sub-human, or "almost human". they are considered malicious by nature, or cursed this way. i found some interesting inspiration in this, and adapting it to the D&D world, in a way that might make for an interesting race culture.
and now presenting to you, the new and improved Troglodyte:
Perception and Concept
- perception: the troglodyte is originally used for an encounter with a monster who has the Stench ability. with this transformation, i hope to show a broader scope to the creatures- secondary assistants to another intelligent race, supplying them with cheap forms of magic, or intriguing and complex social encounters, a complication to resolve due to their tunneling abilities, and more.
the troglodyte is not just a battle enocounter, but a race with it's own agenda, psyche, and motives.
- concept: the troglodytes are a scavenging society (at least the parts the party is likely to meet). small tribes that move from place to place looking for some resource or another. the trogs can use various methods to get what they want, though violence is a common choice in the fairly militaristic society. they do have other methods and other skills that others need to consider though, amongst them their knowledge of ancient cultures and secrets.
a most disturbing aspect of the troglodytes is their near obsession with mimicry, of personalities, places, and more. this talent/ curse however creates some unexpected advantages to the trogs when combating. many believe it's due to a desperate need to find a culture of their own.
Place and Interactions
- Place in the world: no one knows the origins of the troglodytes. though they habitually inhabit old ruins, take on ancient customs and revere long dead gods, there is no reference to their origins or history. some scholars even speculate that the troglodytes race arose from another race- some ancient race of bygone days, who was somehow transformed into these poor beings (either by a great curse, or some other way). or maybe they were the race's slaves, and since then took it upon themselves to replace them...
for whatever reason, the troglodyte culture revers the past, to extreme measures. troglodyte society is divided to two main social groupings. Citadel nations remain in the locations of great civilizations' ruins of the past. the numbers there are usually huge, as the trogs consider these places a sacred home. they cultivate mimicry of the culture, studying it, even rebuilding the place, and more. the citadel troglodytes always seek to bring the civilization back to glory (maybe they believe this way they'll bring themselves back?) to do this every Citadel nation decides on some "great works" that must be done- great buildings, a great magical ritual, and so forth. the project could take decades, even centuries, but the troglodytes are not deterred. this becomes the focus of their society...
but in order to achieve this great work, resources and special ingredients must be acquired (this can be a simple as iron, a special kind of wood, of stone, or more esoteric things such as magical fluids, specific animals, perhaps enchanted ones, and more... great quantities are the key). for this purpose, the citadel nation send smaller groups, usually tribes, as Scavenging parties. each with a Spirit Shaman/ Favored soul or cleric to lead them. a scavenge party may take a long time as well to achieve it's allotted goal. they will usually travel long and far to places that may harbor their desired resources/ items of query.
these "foraging" may take years and decades. other races usually meet these groups only, as the Citadel nations keep their location and presence a deep secret, often hunting down to exclusion whomever might find them. the scavenging parties are less secretive though, having accepted possible death and annihilation when traveling abroad.
after leaving the citadel, the scavenging troglodytes start developing a strange behavior- lacking a central culture anymore, they begin to mimic and imitate everything and everyone they meet. this need is almost compulsive, and deeply disturbing to others, who may find a troglodyte adapting to their stance, speech, gestures and even fighting style! no one knows why they do it, and with such a desperate need, though some hypothesize that the trogs for some reason lack a real central personality since they came to this world, and so they try to "find one" to call their own. this view is mostly held by de sympathizers of troglodytes) this trait is partly just "a thing we do" amongst the troglodytes, but they have also found ways to utilize it to their benefit.
the mimicry is not mindless though, and a troglodyte will act in his best interest, even if needs to act "against character", but s/he will do so reluctantly, and with great distaste. most troglodytes are sour, cunning, and quick to violence, knowing full well the realities of the world.
scavenging groups usually travel under ground, usually by digging easily collapsible tunnels. the digging is mostly done by a special kind of lizards (adapted monitor lizards with impressive burrowing speed). the troglodytes surface and scout from time to time, looking for whatever they're looking for. if a prospective target/ resource have been found, a more stable dwelling is constructed (probably shaped and built in similar fashion to a close dwelling place, or the last habitable structure/ tunnel system the trogs encountered).
the common way to gain the desired items/ resources is usually by raids, but against serious opposition there are other methods. troglodytes have been known to ally with other groups, (usually larger and more powerful), in return for their enchanted charms and fetishes... part of the talents of the divine leaders (SS/FS/C) is their ability to make charms and spells that contain simple spells, far more quickly and efficiently than most other races accomplish. these fetishes are used by the troglodytes in battle, but are also traded for cooperation with other races.
another venue, that only at times succeed, is to tunnel towards the goal. the troglodytes are master tunnelers, and can easily collapse tunnels to block any pursuit. this tactic can work only a few times though, until the element of surprise is lost.
a scavenging group doesn't carry much other goods with it, and so can rarely trade for the items they want, other than their charms and fetishes. troglodytes very rarely take that position, usually only when their previous tactics failed.
another tactic of the troglodytes might be considered strategic, where it not for some oddities. troglodytes seem to really like taking captives! presumably this is so they could trade them off, (which they sometime do) but trogs as often as not just keep the captive, study them, learn about them, mimic them. they also seem to try and make the captive troglodyte- painting its skin, maybe stretching them to their lengths, even smearing it with their body fluids and odors. the reasons for that are unexplained, as troglodytes seem just half aware they are doing this, and have answered with a complex shrug when questioned.
in battle the troglodyte have several assets: first of all is their stench. they are very careful when using it with allies (usually the agreement between the groups is to make separate war parties because of exactly this). second are their charms- about every 4th troglodyte carries a small charm or another on him/ her. if underground then the lizards accompany usually, giving extra mobility and a space to run into if wanting to collapse the tunnel. and last but not least- the troglodytes population, through their devotion and worship of past civilization, have somehow managed to be blessed with a higher than normal amount of divine casters (Spirit shamans are said to listen to the spirits of the past, favored souls are just blessed, though they acknowledge no authority. clerics usually revere the ideals, and sometime the god of the long gone civilization), amongst them there is the leader, but also other gifted individuals of the tribe.
there is one more tactic that troglodytes use- in nearly every battle one or a few of the group are designated as watchers. these will observe the battle while fighting (they will usually employ ranged attacks) and then run back to the tribe. due to their memory and mimicry, the watcher/s could show most of what happened. if the foes meet with the troglodytes again, they will find them especially geared against their tactics!
the scavenging parties are not fanatics- if the resource/ items cannot be gained at the current local, the tribe will move on, collapsing their tunnels. if materials were gained, these will be carried by some beasts of burden or another (Again- these might need to be stolen), onwards to the next possible location. if the materials/ items can be used, then they will, but only by leading members of the tribe, and usually very amateurishly (iron, one of the common sought after materials, was known to be just carried in lumps, but also used as decoration and make shift armors, granting up to +4 AC)
- interactions: interaction in general depends mostly on whether the other group has the resources/ materials desired, whether the troglodytes are Citadel or Scavengers, and of course- the power balance. each case is also affected by the mimicry trait. there are a few special cases:
- tunneling lizards: these are regarded highly, as much live stock to 3rd world tribes. the troglodyte tribe takes care of these, and doesn't usually expose them to harm. the lizards are immune to the stench.
- kobolds: koblods quite often work with troglodytes. the kobolds have the numbers and craftiness, and the trogs grant the tougher muscles, charms, and lizards. but the real "deal closer" is something else entirely- the kobolds are just astounded someone wants to mimic THEM!
- lizardmen: one race living in water, the other one in swamps the races barely meet, though sometime a scavenging party encroaches on lizards' territory. the two races are bitter rivals, as the lizardmen never accept the intrusion of "the other" lizards. troglodytes leave if they can, usually at a disadvantage.
- undead: the tribe usually has quite a varied divine talent (the usually have both turning and rebuking clerics), and so most times the tribes will try to take control of simple undead, and use them as warriors. if possible, they will gladly create zombies and skeletons to aid their cause. the fact that the undead have no nose only helps in the matter.
- dopplegangers, changlings and similar shape shifters: the troglodytes seem to adore or nearly worship them. if they realize someone is a shape shifter, they will usually try to kidnap him/ her, and try hard to mimic it's shape shifting, impossible as it may be
- constructs: the tribes usually consider defending guardians as a part of a place/ culture, and will take great care to avoid them. also, they will try to mimic their construction back at home.
Game mechanics and Mysteries
- game mechanics:
1) battle Mimicry: after watching an opponent for a short time (didn't decide how much it was, but it could be fairly short- a few rounds to a few minutes) the troglodyte can mimic feats that were used. (1 feat + 1 feat per intelligent bonus). the troglodyte can mimic only feats that were used and that s/he can normally attain. (describing this correctly is crucial)
2) tribal mimicry: when a Watcher returns to the camp, he can detail the battle to all the other troglodytes. when meeting the same foes all troglodytes can have +2 insight to either their AC or attack. (again- describing this correctly is crucial)
3) charms and fetishes: a troglodyte diving caster can create charms and fetishes (like potions, just another forms- beads, feathers, scales, bones and so on). the time and material cost for this is just 75% of the normal price.
4) draw upon essence: another one of the trgolodytes secrets. this works like the artificer's ability- the divine caster can draw the XP that was used to create an item in order to create another.
- mysteries and unknown: the greatest mystery about the troglodyte is probably who are they? where did they come from? each citadel holds it's own secrets, of which the troglodytes are probably experts. the locations of these small nations is always shrouded in mystery, as only the leader shaman knows, and would never tell alive.
another common mystery that hangs over each scavenging group is what do they want, and what do they want it for? the materials alone can't shed much light, though they may give a small clue.
Playing, at a D&D table near YOU!
- "and there goes the floor": one of the first signs of troglodyte presence is when they tunnel straight to the source (or perhaps they mistook a bit) of their query. (this is especially trur if they have a high enough level of a divine caster, that can.. well... divine the location of the query). imagine a ball the party was invited to, and suddenly the floor collapses, and a bunch of trogs climb up, stinking up the place! (maybe they sought another place, or maybe they needed the chandelier!)
the battle can descend back to the tunnels, but the troglodytes can collapse them behind them, if they need to escape
- "brutes with magical help": time to bring in the allies, with help in the forms of charms and such (certainly won't look out of place in the regular ogre's garb for instance) as well as maybe a divine casting troglodyte in the back (entangle wouldn't hurt ogres much, would it?
- "predicting the next heist": if the tribe needs several different items, it will become very hard to figure out where they will hit next. unless... what if one of the dead ones drop a partial list, (perhaps half eaten by a lizard?) now the party needs to find where the trogs are going to hit next! could be a fun game of "why the hell does DARK RU..." mean? also, with the watchers- after a battle or two the party is fighting their own style!
- "torture, troglodyte style!" at one of the encounters, the troglodytes focus one one character or two (i'd suggest two, so it would be a fun play between them) and kidnap them! (again- they could separate them from the others by collapsing tunnels, Stone Shape, and more). then, the full scope of troglodyte mimicry comes to view- as they arrive at their tunnels- they see they resemble the places that were attacked, some troglodytes act like people in the town/ city... and worst of all- now they (the players) are being mimicked, to the max! clothes, talking, personality, and so on... but there is more! they are being "turned" to troglodytes! (the smell would be the worst). design your preferred escape plan...
- "and now undead?" this could be added sooner or later, as the troglodyte start bringing in the dead. (which could be accompanied by both a rebuking cleric and a spirit shaman. would be an odd combination). have the undead stink already, from previous generous application of odor.
- "to the Citadel": if the players defeat the troglodytes before they escape, and they interogate the divine leader (vie speak with dead for example), they might find the location of the lost citadel, and perhaps also the purpose of gathering all of those materials! but the Citadels' trogs are going to prove much more powerful, and entrenched. it seems the roles have turned...
- "or perhaps just a trade?" if the players don't exterminate the troglodytes, they could porbably trade with them for several things: charms and fetishes, location of other ruins' knowledge of subterranean travel (especially fitting if your world has an active underworld). the engagement could end neutrally, and the troglodytes moving on... they can even tunnel a way for the characters, though the incessant mimicry might deter some players... (especially those who experienced it already)
in conclusion: a bit shorter than usual, but i think it is still worthwhile. hopefully this added you a race to your campaign. anyway, i'd really, really love any remarks, on the Troglodyte or others