Dungeons & Delvers: Grimlocks

I posted art and lore of our myconids and gnoll in a Facebook art group. Then someone asked us to post it in another group, and then someone in that group asked us to post it in the Dungeon Master & Storytellers group.

Both were received really well, and in response to one of the member's comments on the myconid I asked if there was a specific monster they'd want me to tackle, as a sort of challenge. He suggested grimlocks.

In case you for some reason don't know what a grimlock is, or you know you've read their Monster Manual entry but understandably forgot about it, it's a primitive, pale-skinned humanoid without eye sockets that can effectively "see" out to a range of 20-40 feet (varies by edition).

Basically morlocks from The Time Machine, just with a slightly different name.

Grimlocks are a monster I've only ever used in Age of Worms, and that's only because they were specifically in the adventure. Otherwise I've only briefly thought about them on the off chance we're digging through our minis drawers and happen upon one. Usually my thoughts are, "Huh", and then I put it back because I have never at any point been actually looking for a grimlock.

Now that I've actually spent some time thinking about them, here's how we're changing them for Dungeons & Delvers:

First, no weapons or clothing: they're either not affected by the cold all that much, or are covered in fur (after fiddling with concept art I'm inclined to say no fur), and have nice, sharp claws. The claws also help them climb, which is handy in caves. Might even have something like scopulae to make it easier.

Second, their ears are much bigger, like a bat's, giving them exceptional hearing. Furthermore, their faces are dominated by a large, empty socket. This socket translates sound into vision, allowing the grimlock to effectively "see" (think Daredevil's vision from the 2003 movie, which aside from Ben Affleck being in it is pretty much all I can remember about it).

Most of their faces are solid bone plates, with patterns formed by ridges and cracks. These faceprints vary from grimlock to grimlock, and provide a way to easily identify them using echolocation: just one click, and as long as they're mostly facing you, you know exactly who they are.

They can stretch their necks out another foot or so, allowing them to peer around corners, over ledges, look underneath ledges, or even just glance about them without having to move the rest of their body; good when food is scarce and you're trying to conserve all the energy you can.

I posted all of that to the group, got another very positive response, but then someone asked me about their culture. At first I was thinking that they really wouldn't have any: they're just the humanoid equivalent of relatively intelligent predators that skulk about in caves, and maybe come out at night to feed. They'd be xenophobic, viewing everything as food, potential food, or a threat.

But then I again thought about it, and this is what I would do if I had to give them some sort of culture:

Hunting and fighting skills are valued over everything else: the strongest and most cunning grimlock is the leader.

Their written language is simple glyphs: food, water, shelter, danger, exit, etc. They carve these into walls, and using their brand of echolocation can easily pick them up.

For their religion I figure they worship some sort of bat god or demon, like Camazotz. Grimlock priests wear fleshy robes and fanged masks made from bone to make them better resemble bats. High priest is also probably the colony leader.

You'd have ceremonies where they'd kill someone, drink the blood, and leave the body under a colony of bats as part of an excarnation ritual. That's also how they'd handle their dead: feed the corpse to bats, or if there aren't any bats they strip it clean themselves.

I can see them making music by manipulating streams of water, so that it drips and trickles in a way they find pleasing. Also setting up stones with holes bored in them, so wind gusts passing through make specific types of noises. For something easier, just clacking rocks together or throwing them in pools of water. Some especially malicious grimlocks might enjoy listening to others scream in agony.

Visual art would be sculpture, ideally something that looks different when "viewed" using different amounts of noise (ie, it looks one way when a quiet noise is made, but different when a louder noise is made). Would also include various types of reliefs.

Rarely I could see them mixing sculpture and sound, like water dripping onto a statue, affecting how a grimlock "sees" it.

Normally xenophobic, some grimlock colonies might work with other races (or at least tolerate them).

Grimlocks can't easily detect metal, and even if they can are unable to extract and use it anyway, so dwarves and humans would work out trade agreements with them in exchange for food, tools, weapons, and armor. They'd also make excellent guardians.

If you want to make a nod to The Time Machine, over time they could learn the basics of dwarven machinery, being able to climb about and use their long arms to reach into tight spaces. In Dungeons & Delvers dwarves can't see in the dark, so being able to easily see the internal mechanisms of a machine without needing a light source would also be valuable.

Now that I've got some ideas for an adventure, perhaps even a book of subterranean monsters, here are the stats for Dungeons & Delvers:

Level 2 Medium Aberrant
XP 32

Ability Scores
STR +2 DEX +1 WIS +0
CON +1 INT -2 CHA -2

Athletics +3, Perception +3

Initiative +1
Speed 30 feet; climbing
AC 11 DR 1 (thick skin)
Fort +2 Ref +2 Will +0
Wounds 8 Vitality 4 Total 12

Claws: +3 to hit; 1d6+2 slashing damage.

Treasure: Grimlock larynx (2d6 sp)

The larynx can be used to make potions that allow you to see in the dark using echolocation. You basically gain blindsense out to 30 feet (50 feet with an enhanced potion, and 100 feet for a superior potion). Hour duration. Base potion would cost something around 25 sp, 45 for enhanced, and 60 for superior (the larynx only foots part of the cost: you need other ingredients).

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Apothecary, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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