dungeons and dragons monster: cavern glider

m. werneburg, 2015.01.17

The game of Dungeons and Dragons takes place in a fantasy setting of swords and sorcery and monsters. Most of the actual monsters tend to be thoroughly evil creatures, many of them mindless killers (such as undead zombies) or cruel (ogres, trolls) or simply hungry (too many to name). But there aren't quite so many that are not evil or predatory but simply local to the wilderness region or underground cavern system where adventurers go to rescue princes, slay dragons, etc. Here I'm thinking of critters designed around a peaceful existance that just happens to be in a wild or underground setting. Something perhaps more than just animal.

It's with this in mind that when I saw an illustration of the Phanaton from the venerable Isle of Dread, perhaps the first D&D module I ever played at around age 10. I'd always liked the drawings, but upon reading the description of the "race" now, I realize that they were intended to be yet another sentient species, even possibly a player race. And they were likened to Hobbits in size. In other words, not monsters.

I decided to keep the form factor / design of the critters, and retain the scale of the things in the drawings. They're described as looking a mix of monkey and raccoon and flying squirrel. So I've recast them as semi-sentient, tribe-living wild things capable of wielding stolen tools and weapons but not of building societies. I've also decided to make them tough, fearless, but non-aggressive outside of defense of self and territory. Like small baboons—capable of gliding and certainly capable of mischief.

Cavern gliders

cavern gliders
No. Enc.:    2d4 (6d6)
Alignment:   Survivor
Movement:    60’ (20’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice:    4hp
Attacks:     3
Damage:      1d3, 1d3, 2d3
Save:        Level 0 human
Morale:      10
Hoard Class: special
XP:          30

Cavern gliders are small monkey-like creatures with webbed flaps of skin connecting their arms and legs with which they can glide from an elevated place. They stand about 2' tall, with a prehensile tail of about the same length. The things are known to sing, and to construct fortified structures for their protection. They are accomplished spelunkers and adventurers toiling underground have observed cavern gliders tracking their progress for many kilometers through difficult circumstances. In forest environments they are known to travel widely by brachiating and gliding. These creatures can use their opposable thumbs and their tail to deploy tools and weapons, and frequently wield knives stolen from humanoids.

These creatures have matriarchal societies and are omnivorous. They send out roving bands of hunter/gatherers to obtain food and scout their territory. They are non-aggressive and prefer a campaign of harrassment to repel intruders upon their domain. This harrassment typically takes the form of:

Cave gliders are naturally curious, and will approach non-threatening strangers—especially if encountered away from their own lair. They may also be bartered with, for food or the metal implements with which they gather food and defend themselves. Some bands of cavern gliders have mastered the use of fire, and will willingly trade for anything with which fire can be started. They will also trade for gems and jewelry, though it's not clear whether the creatures value such treasure or use it for some other purpose.

A spell-caster using magic to converse with a cavern glider may understand their rough speech inasmuch as the creatures do speak.